For more than 40 years, "The Fantasticks" has held forth at the 153-seat Sullivan Street Theater in Greenwich Village. Some assumed the little off-Broadway show would run forever.
Not so says producer Lore Noto, who announced Tuesday that the musical by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt would end its record-breaking run next Jan. 6. As of last Sunday, the world's longest-running musical had played 17,005 performances. By comparison, "Cats," the longest-running show in Broadway history, finished last September at a measly 7,485 performances.
"New owners of the playhouse did their best to accommodate our production, but dwindling grosses (combined) with escalating operating costs decided the issue for us," Noto said.
"There are many close to the production, including myself, who believe we had a chance to beat out `The Mousetrap,'" Noto said. But they now realize topping that still-running London phenomenon, which opened eight years before "The Fantasticks," would be an unobtainable goal, he added.
Noto tried to prepare his audiences. For the last month of so, "The Fantasticks" has been running small ads in The New York Times which ominously stated "Last Weeks???"
"The Fantasticks" announced its closing once before--in 1986--but a flurry of business kept it going. By the end of 2000, the show had grossed more than $23 million.
Jones, who wrote the show's book and lyrics, was philosophical about the possibility of a final curtain.
"'The Fantasticks' has very much an ongoing life around the country and around the world, so that's a great comfort," Jones said Tuesday. "All that I care about--and it has been true from the beginning--is that we keep it in good shape and remain true to the piece."
The musical, best known for the songs "Try to Remember" and "Soon It's Gonna Rain," is based on an obscure play by Edmond Rostand. The tale, a mock version of "Romeo and Juliet," concerns two fathers who invent a feud to bring their children together.
"The Fantasticks" had a precarious beginning on May 3, 1960, but was saved by word-of-mouth. Reviews were mixed, but audiences, particularly theater people such as Broadway producer Cheryl Crawford and actress Anne Bancroft, called friends and urged them to see it.
With the announced closing of "The Fantasticks," Jones and Schmidt, who also wrote "I Do! I Do!" and "110 in the Shade," are beginning again. Their new show is a musical they started before "The Fantasticks" and then put aside for more than four decades.
"Roadside" concerns the goings-on in the traveling tent shows of the Old West. It opens in late November at the York Theatre Company. The songwriting team plan to work on "Roadside," while at the same time overseeing the final days of their long-running success.
"Along about holiday time, 'The Fantasticks' is liable to be a pretty hot ticket, and I want it to be as good as we can make it," Jones said.
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