Friday, May 29, 2009

The Fantasticks, Austin Playhouse, May 22 - June 28

The Fantasticks at Austin Playhouse is charming. The reliable, charming low-budget winsome musical that has been charming 'em since its low-budget opening off-Broadway in 1960.

This is the show that smashed the records for long runs -- with a 42-year run by the original production and 17,162 performances. Then a New York City revival that ran 655 performances in 2006-2008 at the Snapple Theatre Center's Jerry Orbach Theatre on 50th Street, paused, then resumed and is still going. You can check out their website with perky piano audio, theatre description, ticket info and pages and pages of press clippings. Regular tickets are $75 (twofers, $112.50) and premium seating tickets are $125, which by comparison makes the Austin Playhouse production a grand bargain.

Wikipedia records that there have been 11,103 U.S. productions in 2000 U.S. cities and towns, as well as more than 700 productions in other countries, including 200 in Canada and 45 in Scandinavia.

What's the secret? There are several:

A comfortable formula (boy meets girl, fathers stage fake abduction, boy saves girl; boy discovers trickery, boy ventures into world, girl falls for cad and is disabused, couple are reunited, now more experienced and wiser).

Simple, memorable melodies and lyrics (Try to Remember, Why Did The Kids Put Beans In Their Ears?, Soon It's Gonna Rain, I Can See It).

The simple staging that evokes a troupe of traveling players. With duos: two lovers, two clownish dads, two actor-clowns. And with a mysterious master-of-ceremonies named "El Gallo" who moves the plot, fakes the abduction, seduces (or almost seduces) the jilted heroine, and exposes the lovers to the world's cruelties.

Click to read more on . . . .

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