The world's longest-running musical is turning 51. On Tuesday, May 3, 2011 Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's romantic musical comedy The Fantasticks will celebrate its 51st anniversary when it plays its 19,019th New York City performance.
The announcement was made today by Terzetto LLC, Pat Flicker Addiss and MARS Theatricals (Amy Danis and Mark Johannes), producers of The Fantasticks.
A modern twist on Romeo and Juliet, The Fantasticks is the quintessential story of boy and girl sweethearts who go out into the world and discover that with love comes responsibility, with independence comes danger, and with experience comes joy. The score, which includes the hit songs "Try To Remember", "They Were You" and "Soon It's Gonna Rain", is as timeless as the story itself.
When The Fantasticks (music by Harvey Schmidt; book/lyrics/direction by Tom Jones) opened in 1960 at a tiny theater on New York City's Sullivan Street, no one ever dreamed it would run for 17,162 performances and become the world's longest-running musical. Since then there have been over 11,000 productions in more than 3,000 U.S. cities and towns and in 67 countries, from Afghanistan to Iran to Zimbabwe, making The Fantasticks the world's most frequently-produced musical. The show has been performed at The White House and has survived eleven U.S. Presidents beginning with President Eisenhower. Japan, New Zealand, Germany, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Israel have all seen multiple productions. The Fantasticks has been translated into numerous languages including Pashto, Dari, Icelandic, Arabic, Hebrew, Magyar and Mandarin.
The Fantasticks has played all fifty states, plus Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. It has been performed for the Peace Corps in Africa, at the Shawnee Mission in Kansas, the Menninger Foundation, Olympian Fields, Yellowstone National Park and the White Sands Missile Range. It was performed in Mandarin by the Peking Opera, and in 1990 under the auspices of the United States State Department it played for the first time in Russia. There have been two film versions, one in 1964 and one in 2000, and the list of notable individuals who have appeared in the show through the years includes Jerry Orbach, Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, Harrison Ford, Liza Minnelli, F. Murray Abraham, Patti LuPone, Kristin Chenoweth, American Idol finalist Anthony Fedorov and Amazing Race winner Nick Spangler.
Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt wrote The Fantasticks for a summer theater at Barnard College. After its Off Broadway opening in May 1960 it went on to become the longest-running production in the history of the American stage and one of the most frequently-produced musicals in the world. Their first Broadway show, 110 in the Shade, was revived on Broadway in a new production starring Audra McDonald. I Do! I Do!, their two-character musical starring Mary Martin and Robert Preston, was a success on Broadway and is frequently produced around the country and the world. (One production, in Minneapolis, played for 22 continuous years with the same two actors in the leading roles.) For several years Jones and Schmidt worked privately at their theater workshop, concentrating on small-scale musicals in new and often untried forms. The most notable of these efforts were Celebration, which moved to Broadway, and Philemon, which won an Outer Critics Circle Award. They contributed incidental music and lyrics to the Off Broadway play Colette starring Zoë Caldwell, then later did a full-scale musical version under the title Colette Collage. The Show Goes On, a musical revue featuring their theater songs and starring Jones and Schmidt, was presented at the York Theater, and Mirette, their musical based on the award-winning children's book, was premiered at the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut. In addition to an Obie Award and the 1992 Tony Award for Excellence in the Theater for The Fantasticks, Jones and Schmidt were inducted into the Broadway Hall of Fame at the Gershwin Theatre, and on May 3, 1999 their stars were added to the Off Broadway Walk of Fame outside the Lucille Lortel Theater.