The Fantasticks, which opens this Thursday at the Ensemble Theatre Company, holds the record for longest running musical in history. For 42 years, The Fantasticks was performed at the tiny Sullivan Street Playhouse in New York’s Greenwich Village, stretching from the early days of the John F. Kennedy administration to the aftermath of 9/11. It’s an unusual type of musical, conceived with a small cast and orchestra in mind, intended to be played in just the kind of intimate setting provided by the Ensemble’s historic Alhecama Theatre. And the story, which is based on the Roman myth of Pyramus and Thisbe, follows the adventures of two young people caught up in their fathers’ reverse-psychology scheme: get them together romantically by appearing to keep them apart.
For this production, the Ensemble has recruited a great cast and a particularly interesting director-choreographer combo in Saundra McClain (director) and Byron Easley (choreographer). Frequent collaborators on such shows as Spunk and Ain’t Misbehavin’, McClain and Easley are successful professionals with many years of experience between them and a special love of this type of show, which is small in scale but packed with artistry.
“I’m in director heaven with this cast and with Byron to choreograph for me,” said McClain following a recent rehearsal. “[This show] always comes back to some kind of love: young love, old love, romantic love, love of family, lost love, found love. It describes two people who have the experience of losing someone and then, after many years, finding that person again. If it has a moral or a message, it might be that if you love someone, you should set them free because they will find you again when the time is right.”
“It’s also about tasting the world and maybe getting a little burnt by it, but coming out of that experience a stronger person,” added Easley.
The Fantasticks opens at the Alhecama Theatre (914 Santa Barbara St.) on Thursday, June 2, and runs through Sunday, June 26. For tickets and info, call 965-5400 or visit ensembletheatre.com.