BWW Preview: The Musical Theater Project Goes Behind the Scenes of THE FANTASTICKS

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Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)

What is the longest running musical in New York City history? No, it's not PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, CHICAGO or THE LION KING. It's that little musical, THE FANTASTICKS, with book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt. It's been on the boards in Manhattan for over 56 years.

"During its original run at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village, THE FANTASTICS logged a record breaking 17,162 performances." In 2002 a New York revival opened at The Theater Center and continues to run.

(Just for the record: As of April 17, 2016--PHANTOM has been on Broadway for 28 years and has been performed 11, 742 times, CHICAGO, now in its 20th year is the longest running American musical on Broadway at 8,067 performances, and THE LION KING opened in 1997 and has had 7,666 curtain openings).

THE FANTASTICKS also holds the honor of being "the only Off-Broadway show ever to have won a Tony."

In 1991 native Clevelander and Baldwin Wallace University grad Rex Nockengust performed as Matt in the show.

THE FANTASTICKS has been called "A Gem," "The perfect musical for any child to see," and "the definitive musical." The charming score includes such classics as, "Try to Remember," "I Can See It," "They Were You," and "Soon It's Gonna Rain."

"THE FANTASTICKS tells the story of a young man, Matt, and Luisa, the girl next door, whose fathers have built a wall to keep them apart. The youngsters nevertheless contrive to meet and fall in love. Their fathers, meanwhile, are congratulating themselves, for they have erected the wall and staged a feud in order to achieve, by negation, a marriage between their willfully disobedient children." Add some comic actors (Henry and Mortimer) and The Mute, an omnipresent character who sets props, and plays the wall, and you have the ingredients of a charming message musical.

The script asks the audience to use their imagination and try to remember such things as falling in love, enjoying a night filled with moonlight and romance, to understand disillusionment and romance, to realize that love can be false, and to gain the insight that through understanding the harshness of the world, individuals can come to understand each other.

All this and more will be explained by The Musical Theater Project on Saturday, April 30 @ 7:00 PM in the Hoke Theatre of the Stocker Arts Center of Lorain County Community College in Elyria (tickets: 440-366-4040 or and Sunday, May 1 @ 3:00 PM at the Regina Auditorium of Notre Dame College in South Euclid (tickets: 216-245-8687 or go online to

The show will be co-hosted by Bill Rudman and Nancy Maier and will feature Shane Patrick O'Neill, Michelle Pauker, Fabio Polanco and George Roth.

If you are interested in seeing the show in a full staged production, from May 13th to the 29th, Great Lakes Theater will present THE FANTASTICKS with direction by Victoria Bussert and choreography by Gregory Daniels at the Hanna Theatre. (Tickets: 216-664-6064 or

(Footnote: some material in this article is based on

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From This Author Roy Berko