Les Miserables may be the “world’s longest-running musical” if measured by West End and Broadway residencies. But theatre trivia nuts will know that The Fantasticks’s original Off-Broadway production ran for an incredible 17,162 performances at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village between May 1960 and January 2002 – that’s nearly 42 years or, if you’re counting, about 18 years longer than Les Mis, which marks its 24th birthday in October.
Despite this incredible success in New York, The Fantasticks has not achieved anything like the same longevity in London. It ran for just a month in its 1961 West End premiere and has had only minor revivals since then Off-West End, most notably at the King’s Head Theatre in 1996.
The plot, loosely based on Edmund Rostand’s play The Romancers, focuses on Luisa and Matt, two teenagers who fall in love despite their fathers’ feuding. However, the story isn’t just a Romeo and Juliet-style love affair: the fathers are secretly friends who have been plotting to make them fall in love all along! Once the paternal plan works, the parents must find a way of putting an end to their supposed disagreement without Luisa and Matt discovering the truth.
The Fantasticks has music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones and includes the song “Try to Remember”. A 1995 film version starred Joel Grey, Barnard Huges and Jonathon Morris as the narrator, El Gallo. We hear that two big names have been signed up for leading roles for the West End production, which is likely to move into one of the smaller theatres, perhaps Trafalgar Studios or the Duchess Theatre.