* distributed over $3 million to 44 original backers on their total investment of $16,500;
* had a box office gross, on Sullivan Street, of $22,056,177;
* chalked up worldwide profit of $6,423,407;
* been presented in 11,103 productions in the U.S. in more than 2,000 cities and towns;
* had 776 high school and college productions in California and 737 high school and college productions in New York.
(See the streaming video from the 40th anniversary performance by clicking here).
With book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt, The Fantasticks is, in fact, not only the longest running show in any category in American theater history, but the world's longest running musical. It has had many more lives than Cats, set to close this summer at Broadway's Winter Garden Theater after a mere 17 years.
Since its first performance on May 3, 1960, The Fantasticks has survived some less-than-enthusiastic critical notices, an actors' strike, newspaper and subway strikes, two electrical blackouts, blizzards, a building collapse that blocked the street, one Presidential assassination, another Presidential resignation--and some weekday performances when the eight-member cast nearly outnumbered those in the audience. So what has made this simple love story between a teenage boy and girl such a musical phenomenon?
"The Fantasticks was one of the early Off-Broadway musicals that had such a 'right feeling' to it," says Aaron Frankel, a retired theater arts professor at Columbia University and author of the book Writing the Broadway Musical. "The Fantasticks is about a fairy tale coming true, which is part of its charm. But it's also enormously skillful and very heartfelt on the part of the writers. And the music is outstanding!"
In addition to its charm and music, the show's so-called "run-of-the-play contract" at its home in a former horse stable at 181 Sullivan Street--coupled with widespread sales of music rights and revenue from professional and amateur productions around the world--has helped keep it running Off-Broadway all these years. (A run-of-the-play contract permits producers to keep a show at its original theater as long as the theater isn't razed. And often, as with The Fantasticks, rent increases aren't as steep in an original playhouse as they would be if the show moved to a new venue.)