By Mary Ann Bourbeau |
WEST LONG BRANCH – “The Fantasticks,” the show that holds the record as the world’s longest-running musical, is this year’s Shadow Lawn Summer Stage production at Monmouth University. The show runs from June 21 to July 1 at the Lauren K. Woods Theatre.
The musical ran for more than 50 years off-Broadway and became a New York institution. During its original run, from 1960 to 2002 at the Sullivan Street Playhouse, “The Fantasticks” logged 17,162 performances. A revival opened at the Theater Center in 2006 and closed in June 2017 after 4,390 shows. The show received a special Tony Award and helped launch the careers of Jerry Orbach, F. Murray Abraham, Kristin Chenoweth and Glenn Close.
“Our production is very similar to what was originally conceived on Sullivan Street,” said David Edwards, who performed in the off-Broadway show for more than three years. “The set is spare and the music is just a piano and harp, but it’s full of magic and romance.”
“The Fantasticks” is a funny, romantic musical about a boy, a girl and two fathers, drawing inspiration from Shakespeare romances. The fathers want their two children to fall in love, so they pretend to be feuding and forbid the boy and girl from seeing each other in the hopes that the scheme will lead to a romance. They even go so far as to stage a fake abduction of the girl so the boy can be the hero who rescues her.
“It’s a universal coming-of-age story with star-crossed lovers, like Romeo and Juliet,” said Edwards. “The message in the show is: ‘without a hurt, the heart is hollow.’ ”
Edwards, who played the role of El Gallo, the narrator and bandit for hire, reprises that role at Monmouth University.
“It’s a lovely thing for me to revisit this show after so many years,” he said.
Fellow off-Broadway cast member J.C. Hoyt returns to the role of Henry, the old actor who assists the bandit in the girl’s abduction.
“I like the fact that this production is kind of a mixture of restaging the original show and putting some new ideas into it,” said Hoyt. “We’ve made it fresh for today’s audiences by putting little references to the world now as opposed to 1960.”
The famous score includes the classic songs “Try to Remember,” ‘They Were You” and “Soon It’s Gonna Rain.”
“The music is just wonderful,” said Hoyt. “It has my vote for the best musical of the 20th century. It’s so universal.”
Edwards and Hoyt were both in the final performance of the show’s first run in 2002.
“The show was almost 43 years old and it was the hottest ticket in town again,” said Edwards. “They asked me to come back for the last two weeks. I had just come out of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shortest running show – “By Jeeves” ran for two months – and then came back to a show that was the longest running. I closed both of them within two weeks.”
In the Monmouth production, Keenan Buckley and Sarah Beth Andrews take on the roles of young lovers Matt and Luisa, and Brett Lowell and Felipe Gorostiza are the “feuding” fathers. The cast also includes Brandon M. Wiener and Evan Kudish, alumni from the university’s department of music and theater arts, with Monmouth students Christian Lombino and Erin Clemente serving as their understudies. Choreography is by Janine Molinari and musical direction by Michael Gilch. The show is directed by Michael Perreca and produced by Sheri Anderson.
“The Fantasticks” runs from June 21 to July 1, with performances Thursdays at 8 p.m., Fridays at 2 and 8 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adults; $20 for seniors, employees and Monmouth alumni, and $10 for children and current Monmouth students. For reservations, call the box office at 732-263-6889 or visit monmouth.edu/mca. The Lauren K. Woods Theatre is located at Norwood and Cedar avenues on the Monmouth University campus.
Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at email@example.com.
This article first appeared in the June 21 – 28, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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