by Tom Jones & Harvey Schmidt
Running in Petaluma through June 24, 2018
Putting a theatrical chestnut in a season is risky—will audiences be tired of it? Have too many already seen it? Does it still carry a message that will resonate with today? Is it enough to do it precisely because it’s a chestnut? These are questions that rang in my head as I watched the excellent cast do a fine performance of The Fantasticks at Cinnabar Theater. So much to admire, in the energy and skill of the actors, the quality of the small orchestra, the clever set and staging—and yet, the play does indeed feel creaky and dated now, despite its illustrious past.
Tom Jones (no, not the singer, or Fielding’s title character, but a different Jones of Broadway and Off-Broadway renown) teamed up with Harvey Schmidt to create a parable for their time—that would be 1960, when it first premiered. Jones wrote the book and lyrics for this small-cast musical, borrowing themes and ideas liberally from half a dozen other works. In many ways he captured the idealism and activism of the early ’60s, with tropes of independence, anti-authority, and facing down the ills of the world with sober optimism. The show went on to run for over 40,000 performances, and has been performed the world over countless times.
Schmidt’s music and the simple but poetic lyrics have made the songs staples in the cabaret canon, sung by the likes of Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, Kristin Chenoweth, and countless others. Hearing the songs again is like rediscovering familiar old friends. But even they can’t save the script from feeling hackneyed. …
To continue reading about this production, see the full review at Talkin’Broadway.com: