Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Fantastic Play THE FANTASTICKS

One night I was sound asleep in the HU-4 Squadron Enlisted Men’s Barracks, this would have been some time in the early mid 1960’s, my friend Sam, who lived in the cubical next door, shook my mattress to wake me up.

He told me he and a couple of others had just been to see a play, which was FANTASTICK! I said, “Good, what is the name of it?”


I think I said, “It must have been FANTASTIC to wake me up t tell me, but what was the name of the play?”

Sam said, “FANTASTICK!”

Enough of the “who’s on first?” routine. The above conversation didn’t take place. But Sam did wake me up to tell me about just coming from the Big Apple, where he and some other friends went to a play in the Village by the name of THE FANTASTICKS. He couldn’t get over how great he thought it was and felt it was worth waking me up to tell me.

It wasn’t long before Sam went back, this time with me.

New York City was about 60 miles away from our Navy base in Lakehurst, New Jersey, which meant sometimes we went there at a drop of a hat.

On Google I learned where we went was The Sullivan Street Playhouse which I suppose is on Sullivan Street. If I remember correctly, there wasn't even a stage, or if so, a very small stage.

I remember it was a wet night when we went. It was either raining or drizzling. The room was kind of small for a theater. It reminded me of a church’s basement. The seats might have even been folding chairs.

The musical appeared to be a basic Romeo and Juliette play changed to a Main Street, U.S.A. surroundings. But wait! After a short while you learn that the fathers of Romeo and Juliette are the best of friends and they only pretend to be enemies so the boy and girl will be attracted to each other. The fathers felt if the kids knew their parents were friends then they wouldn’t date each other out of spike.

There is a narrator who is invisible to the characters that explains things to you from to time. The players seem very much aware of the audience's presence and even makes comments to them from time to time...wait, if they are aware of us and the narrator is aware of us howcome they are not aware of the narrator. I know, he is invisible to certain people, like me.

That is the basic story line, but how it is told is the magic. There are no backdrops or stage props. The only stage visual aid is a little man with a cane and top hat. If the fathers need to talk to each other over a fence the little visual aid man holds out his cane and the audience quickly adapts, knowing they are really talking over a fence. If the seasons change and the leaves fall the little man with a bag hanging on him reaches in the bag and brings out bright colorful cut-ups and ballets around tossing what the audience knows to be really leaves that have changed to fall colors.

A bizarre kidnapping takes place by a strange British stage actor-vagabond type and his Indian (Western) companion. Then the three man band plays some really dramatic music.

Speaking of music, since I saw the play, I have heard songs from that little small musical played and played on the radio, the songs are timeless. Such songs as: “Soon Its Going to Rain, I Can Feel It”; “Try to Remember”; “Round and Round” and more.

At times, still, I catch myself mentally humming one of the tunes.

Remember the late Jerry Orbach? He was the LAW AND ORDER police detective with the drinking problem? Before Law and Order he was in THE FANTASTICS. I think he was the narrator.

In the early 1970s Anna and I took music appreciation at Kennesaw Junior* College and had to attend so many concerts. We went to see THE FANTASTICKS someplace, I think at Emory College. Another time we saw it as a church play, and I think the latest was at Kennesaw College* about two or three years ago. At all the ones we went to, I think they were all stuck to the concept of a mime scenery man – why not? It is whole lot cheaper than having to pay for raw materials to make your own props. And the story line was just as good and the music was just as good as the original too. In fact, at Kennesaw College, where it was performed outside, I thought the performers sure were professionals singers with superb trained voices, but no, they were students.

Soon I’m Gonna Finish This, I Can Feel It…
(And you say, “Fantastic!”)

*Kennesaw College was a Junior College when we attended. But it is now a full university.

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