When a closing announcement for The Fantasticks was recently made and then rescinded, the more cynical among us guessed that this was just an attempt to boost ticket sales for the longest-running musical in theater history. But the actual reason behind the announcement is a different, potentially very sad one.
According to Tony Noto, associate producer of the show and the son of its original producer, Lore Noto, the building which houses the Sullivan Street Playhouse--where The Fantasticks has been playing continuously since May 3, 1960--was taken over by a new landlord about a year ago, and that landlord has been attempting to evict the production ever since. "Every performance could be our last," says Noto. "He [the landlord] could go to court and have the building padlocked. We'd have to fight to get back in, and we're not sure if we could do that."
Noto admits that, aside from these troubles, the show has not been doing terrifically at the box office in recent years. "Quite frankly," he explains, "we've had to spend a lot of money defending ourselves against the landlord, so whatever small profit we've been making from ticket sales has disappeared. It's important to us that, when we say the show might be closing, people don't think it's some kind of a ploy. We might have to close very suddenly; we don't know if we'll even have the opportunity to advertise 'last weeks.' We'd love to run another 10 years, but we don't know what God and the legal system have in store for us. I can't predict anything for sure, but I think the end will come in a way that nobody ever thought it would--no goodbyes, no bouquets, no roses. One day we'll be there and, the next day, we'll be gone."
The original cast of The Fantasticks featured Rita Gardner as The Girl, Kenneth Nelson as The Boy, and Jerry Orbach as The Narrator/El Gallo; those roles are currently being played in the show by Natasha Harper, Jeremy Ellison Gladstone, and Paul Blankenship. The beautiful Tom Jones/Harvey Schmidt score for the show includes such songs as "Try to Remember," "Soon It's Gonna Rain," "They Were You," and "I Can See It."
The Fantasticks has received countless professional, semi-professional, and amateur productions around the world; a belated film version was finally released (briefly) to theaters last year and is now available on home video. As of January 1, 2000, the stage show's original 44 backers had received a 19,465% return on their initial investments.