Thursday, May 03, 2007


On this date in 1960 at the old Sullivan Street Theatre in NYC, the longest running musical in history began it's historic run. What an incredible show! What amazing songs! Songs like "Try to Remember" "Soon, It's Gonna Rain" and "It Depends on What You Pay" Schmidt and Jones wrote two other show3s that saw Broadway productions. One of course was "I Do, I Do!" starring the amazing Mary Martin and Robert Preston and the second was "110 Degrees In The Shade" which is now enjoying a revival on Broadway! The Fantasticks premiered with Jerry Orbach as El Gallo, Rita Gardner as Luisa, and Kenneth Nelson as Matt, among the cast members. The spare set and semicircular stage made the show very intimate and immediate for theatregoers. The play is highly stylized and combines aspects of old-fashioned '40s Broadway styles with a more modernist, "fantastical" style and is accompanied by a piano and harp. A mime character represents various set pieces and silent characters, such as the wall between the two houses, and one of the characters, the bandit El Gallo, also serves as a wry narrator.The show was produced on a very low budget. They spent $900 on the set and $541 on costumes at a time when major Broadway shows would spend $1-2 million on sets, props, and costumes. The original set designer, costumer, prop master, and lighting designer was Ed Wittstein, who performed all four jobs for a total of only $480 plus $24.48 a week. The set was similar to that for "Our Town"; Wittstein designed a raised stationary platform anchored by six poles. It resembled a traveling players wagon, like a pageant wagon. As for a curtain, he hung different small false curtains across the platform at various times during the play. He also made a sun/moon out of cardboard. One side was painted bright yellow (the sun) and the other was black with a cresent of white (the moon). The sun/moon was hung from a nail in one of poles and is referred to in the libretto.
The show was broadcast by the Hallmark Hall of Fame on October 18, 1964. The cast included John Davidson, Stanley Holloway, Bert Lahr, Ricardo Montalban, and Susan Watson who had appeared in the original Barnard College production. Others who appeared in the off-Broadway production throughout its long run are F. Murray Abraham, Keith Charles, Kristen Chenoweth, Bert Convy, Eileen Fulton, Lore Noto (the long-time producer), Dick Latessa, and Martin Vidnovic.
On July 24, 1996, the show reached its 15,000th performance, and the show closed on January 13, 2002 after a record-shattering 17,162 performances. It is the world's longest-running musical, and the longest-running, uninterrupted show of any kind in the United States
.An unsuccessful 1995 feature film version, directed by Michael Ritchie, starred Joel Grey, Barnard Hughes, Joe McIntyre, and Jean Louisa Kelly. I did enjoy the movie myself because I saw it as a new interpetation. Just as Rodgers and Hamerstein's movie versions of their stage plays were new interpetations. A beautiful day here! And good news! Tim has saved his house-- Praise God!. Our dear Father in Heaven does indeed answer our prayers.

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