Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Play Has 'Fantastick' Run ; Original Form off Broadway Ran for 42 Years

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Play Has 'Fantastick' Run ; Original Form off Broadway Ran for 42 Years

Article excerpt

We've all heard about the fortunes reaped by those smart and lucky enough to get startup shares of Intel, Apple and Microsoft. Charles West has thought lots, however, about a decidedly low-tech, ground-floor theater investment that for more than a half-century has continued to yield returns best described as "fantastick."

The original off-Broadway production of Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones' "The Fantasticks" ran 42 years, becoming New York's longest- running musical and the most-produced show in the country. By 2010, it had earned its original backers more than 24,000 percent on their investment, and it will continue to pay back on all "Fantasticks" productions through 2020, according a New York Times report.

West hadn't been born when "The Fantasticks" premiered, so he doesn't own shares in the show. He has invested himself deeply, however, in the role of El Gallo, the narrator and romantic rogue in Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones' musical parable about life, love and meddling parents.

He has played the part scores of times as a standby in New York's ongoing 2006 revival production. And he has come to Southwestern Indiana to perform it in the New Harmony Theatre production opening Friday.

It's a good arrow to keep in any actor's career quiver.

"It is the most produced musical ever," West said after a recent rehearsal. "It's been done in all 50 states and 67 countries."

It's hard to pinpoint any one thing responsible for keeping this musical on its legs for so many years in so many places.

The story of two neighbors who try reverse psychology, conspiring in a fake feud and phony abduction to bring their respective children together in marriage, amounts to "an absurd parable," said West, "yet it's something anyone can relate to."

It's essentially a story of families with good intentions learning hard lessons about romance, love and life, told with bare, bold, exaggerated theatrics. …

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