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'Fantasticks' brings down curtain on MTC run in Westport

Published 4:14 pm, Thursday, April 10, 2014

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  • Jacob Heimer and Carissa Massaro play the young lovers in the classic musical "The Fantasticks" at Music Theatre of Connecticut in Westport from Friday, April 11 through May 4. Photo: Contributed Photo, Contributed Photo / Connecticut Post Contributed
    Jacob Heimer and Carissa Massaro play the young lovers in the classic musical "The Fantasticks" at Music Theatre of Connecticut in Westport from Friday, April 11 through May 4. Photo: Contributed Photo, Contributed Photo

 

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THE FANTASTICKS
Music Theatre of Connecticut, 246 Post Road East
Friday, April 11-Sunday, May 4
Performance times: Fridays 8 p.m.; Saturdays 4, 8 p.m.; Sundays 2 p.m. $45-$25
Info: 203-454-3883, www.musictheatreofct.com
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Music Theatre of Connecticut artistic director Kevin Connors chose "The Fantasticks" to close out the 2013-14 season before he knew his company would be moving this fall from Westport to a new home in Norwalk.

Now he is struck by how perfect the show will be as the final attraction in the space MTC has called home for more than 20 years.

"It's all about coming of age and rebirth and relationships," Connors said of the themes in the long-running off-Broadway musical. "What we perceive the world to be and what it really is. It's the right show to close this space because of what it says."

MTC is prized by area theatergoers for its extreme intimacy -- no seat is more than three rows from the playing area -- and that was one of the major selling points of the original production in the tiny Sullivan Street Playhouse in New York's Greenwich Village.

"The Fantasticks" opened in 1960 and ran for 42 years, setting a record it still holds as the longest-running musical of all time. Broadway's venerable "The Phantom of the Opera" will have to run another 16 years to take that title.

"It was really a selfish decision to do it because it's one of my favorite shows ever. I never get tired of it," Connors said.

"The Fantasticks" is about two neighboring fathers who nudge their children to fall in love by pretending to feud with each other, assuming it will have a "Romeo and Juliet"-style result.

Several of the songs by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones quickly became standards, including "Try to Remember" and "Soon It's Gonna Rain."

Connors worked on a 2004 production at the Rich Forum in Stamford that used the "blown-up" scenery of a rather lavish national touring show that starred Robert Goulet (playing the narrator role that Jerry Orbach originated in 1960).

"It was a good production, but after seeing it two or three times on Sullivan Street, I always thought it would work even better in this space," the director said of MTC.

Because "The Fantasticks" ran for such a long time in New York City and has been produced by colleges, high schools and community theaters all over the country for the past 50 years, it has a strong nostalgic appeal for many theatergoers.

"I've had people tell me it was the first show they ever saw or that they wore out the original cast album in high school," Connors said.

The director believes that some of the continuing appeal of the show lies in its simplicity -- there is no need for much of a set and the original orchestrations were for one piano. Very little comes between the actors and the audience in "The Fantasticks."

"People love it because all of the characters are so rich and the story it tells is so rich. It's the perfect show for us. I would have felt regretful if we had left this space without doing it," Connors said.