By ALAN SMASON
Call it a sign of the times or call it the end of an era, but The Fantasticks, the world’s longest-running musical, has announced its closing date of June 4, 2017. The show with music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics and book by Tom Jones had originally opened in Greenwich Village in 1960 and closed in 2002 after more than 17,000 performances in the Sullivan Street Playhouse.
The present revival opened four years later in August of 2006 at The Theatre Center and has been running ever since. The producers had originally announced their intention to close two years ago, but several generous – and apparently sentimental – backers stepped forward to ensure it would continue to extend its record-breaking run. When it reaches its final performance, it will have played a total of 21,552 performances in New York City.
The beloved musical tells the simple story of a boy and a girl from two families separated by a wall whose two fathers conspire to have the pair fall in love with repercussions as they learn the truth. Based on Les Romanesques’ by French playwright Edmond Rostand, it is a parody of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Instead of a genuine feud between families, the two fathers reason correctly that if they invent a schism between them, the two children will rebel against them and fall for one another.
The musical generated several well-known songs, but among the best of them is “Try to Remember,” a song sung first by Jerry Orbach in the original cast as El Gallo, the narrator and erstwhile highwayman. Others who have had notable runs in the show include Stanley Holloway, Bert Lahr and Kristin Chenoweth.
The Crusade of Connors Stephens is set to begin previews on June 17 at the now-renamed Jerry Orbach Theater.