The Fantasticks Opens at Hackmatack Next Week and 45 Years Later
It's not every day you can re-use the opening from a July 1972 newspaper article for an article in 2017. But here goes:
"The Hackmatack Players proudly present 'The Fantasticks.' This moonstruck musical began in a little Greenwich Village theater and became an international success in 14 languages. And no wonder - it started with a French plot, is told in an Italian style of clowning and was written by a couple of young fellows from Texas!" Just as the playhouse did 45 years ago during its first season in business, Hackmatack is producing the musical that has been a favorite among summer stock audiences since it opened in 1960.
With a score by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones, "The Fantasticks" originally appeared in a small Greenwich Village theater and ran for 17,162 performances and 42 years, becoming the world's longest-running musical, playing throughout the US and in at least 67 other countries.
The show tells the story of two fathers who trick their children, Luisa and Matt, into falling in love by pretending to feud. The fathers hire actors to stage a fake abduction, so that Matt can appear to save Luisa, ending the supposed feud.
"Look at this," says Michael Guptill, theater owner, pulling out several yellowing clips from the old "Somersworth Journal" about the 1972 showing of "The Fantasticks." "It was a well-loved show then, and it is still one of the most popular summer musicals."
"I love that 'The Fantasticks' references classical styles of theater, from Commedia dell'arte, to ancient Japanese theater and medieval passion plays," said director Crystal Lisbon. "I also love the music, and that it draws on the audiences' imagination rather than spelling everything out. It's unique."
The size of the cast - just eight actors - is one of the features of the show most appealing to actor Chris Gempp of Dover, who plays Hucklebee, the boy's father.
"Its nice to work with so small a cast," Gempp said. He has appeared in shows at Hackmatack for six summers and never appeared in a play with a cast of less than 25. "It is really nice to work so closely with the director."
With opening night just a week away, the cast is ahead of schedule, a rare treat that affords actors a chance to fine tune an iconic show and add their own personal flair, according to Lisbon.
"Because we have more time we can work on little bits of nuance and have fun making small adjustments that add to the show," she said. "You could do it exactly as its written and has been done before but then you don't get to put your own stamp on it."
Although it may have a new stamp, "The Fantasticks" will be back on stage at Hackmatack after a hiatus of two-generations.
"Our audiences have been asking us to do this show again for 44 years," said Guptill, "So here we go." "The Fantasticks" will show 8 pm Wednesdays to Saturdays from Aug 16 through Sept. 2, with matinees on Thursdays at 2 pm. For more information or tickets, call 207-698-1807 or go to hackmatack.org