In 1960, it was a little musical that broke many molds, especially from the beloved musicals by big Broadway composers/writers like Rogers and Hammerstein, George Abbott, and Lerner and Loewe. It had little plot and became one of several of the earliest so-called ‘concept’ musicals that would later lead to dozens of others such as A Chorus Line, Assassins, and Avenue Q. There was a blending of reality and fantasy; a mixture of many stage forms such as Vaudeville, pantomime, commedia dell’arte, Noh, and ballet; and a dearth of scenic elements that reminded one of the mostly blank stage of Our Town. There was only one song that went on to become firmly implanted in the Great American Songbook, and it was sung and done in the first few minutes. Finally, there was controversy that plagued the musical from its opening night for years, since the musical employed a Native American character who was clearly white and since the word ‘rape’ was repeatedly used in dialogue and lyrics to refer to a planned abduction of a young teenage girl.
And yet the low-budget, quirky The Fantasticks that opened off-Broadway on May 3, 1960 went on to become the world’s longest-running musical (42 years with 17,162 performances), came back for an eleven-year revival (2006-2017), and currently still shows up on 250+ regional, community, and high school stages annually. Currently joining that annual line-up is the thoroughly delightful, big-smile-producing, and heart-warming production of The Fantasticks by San Jose’s Guggenheim Entertainment, Inc. at its 3Below Theatres and Lounge. This updated version retains many of the no-frills aspects that have won fans through the years; has adopted a newer edition of the musical where “abduction” replaces “rape” in its lyrics; and has added 3Below’s own unique scenic, lighting, and directorial touches that make this The Fantasticks well worth an outing – even for the person who feels ‘been there, done that years ago.’
For my entire review, please continue to Talkin’ Broadway: https://www.talkinbroadway.com/page/regional/sanjose/sj190.html.
Rating: 5 E
The Fantasticks continues through February 23, 2020 Thursdays through Sundays at 3 Below Theatres & Lounge, 288 South Second Street, San Jose. Tickets are available online at https://3belowtheaters.com/.
Photo by C Noto Photography