While Les Miserables may be the “world’s longest-running musical” if measured by West End and Broadway residencies, theatre trivia nuts will know that The Fantasticks’ 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 marked its 24th birthday last month.
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.
No casting has yet been announced for the revamped new London production, which will be directed and choreographed by Amon Miyamoto and designed by Rumi Matsui – who last teamed up on the Tony nominated Broadway revival of Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures - with lighting by Briton Rick Fisher.
The Fantasticks also holds the record for the longest-running show of any kind in the US and, internationally, has been staged in 67 countries to date. It’s presented in the West End by Kumiko Yoshii for Gorgeous Entertainment, John Gore and Thomas B McGrath in association with Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer for Nimax Theatres.
Ahead of the musical, the Duchess hosts a series of plays. The current Complicite production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, starring Mark Rylance and director Simon McBurney, is followed by the Christmas run of one-man tribute play Morecambe, from 9 December to 17 January, and then Iain Glen’s revival of Ibsen’s Ghosts, running from 8 February to 15 May and starring Lesley Sharp alongside Glen (See News, 4 Sep 2009).