On May 3, 1960, a chamber-sized variation on Romeo and Juliet by composer Harvey Schmidt and writer-lyricist Tom Jones opened off-off-Broadway at the Sullivan Street Playhouse. On May 3, 2000, The Fantasticks opened again at the Sullivan Street Playhouse, celebrating 40 continuous years of performances and having long since become the longest-running musical in the history of the world. And while many cast members have come and gone, it's the original cast recording that has become an indelible part of our memory, from the dual pianos dotting the overture and Jerry Orbach's rich reading of "Try to Remember" to the fathers' lament "Never Say No" and the gorgeous duet "Soon It's Gonna Rain." Even better, this anniversary edition CD benefits from remastered sound (you can now hear the harp strum in the opening bars) and a new booklet that includes a note from Jones, an introductory essay, and (drumroll, please) full lyrics. Yes, it's still true that the voices may not have the sheer beauty some modern ears might expect, and the pit band (augmented from two players to five for this recording) sounds a bit dated, but who cares? It's The Fantasticks, an essential piece of musical theater history. Long may it run. --David Horiuchi
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Treat Yourself to a Musical classic
Joy Katzen-Guthrie | Tampa Bay Area, Florida | 09/10/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"From this beautifully remastered recording of the original 1960 cast album, it is obvious why The Fantasticks ran for 42 years off Broadway, making it the world's longest continuous musical run to date. In a time of Mega-Mega-Mega This or That, The Fantasticks stands as a testament to the simple beauty of the lyric and melody of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, and the simple poignancy of a tale about human relationships and lasting love without frills, big budgets, or preachiness. Those raised on musicals of the last 3 decades initially may be unable to process it. Extensive recording notes provide a background of the musical and full synopsis of the story, photos, and the entire lyrics and dialogue within the recording. The enchanting two-piano score jumps off the CD to life before you from the first note to the last. The listening experience is akin to sitting in the front row of the intimate Sullivan Street Playhouse where this modern-day Romeo and Juliet premiered and played for more than four decades. From the score, "Try to Remember" -- exquisitely sung by Jerry Orbach, and "They Were You" with Rita Gardner and Kenneth Wilson stand out as classics, though every song beautifully walks us through the lives of the characters. Also extraordinary is the opportunity to hear this wonderful cast, many of whom were appearing in first notable roles. Treat yourself to an experience of what theatre is truly all about."