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Theatre: The Fantasticks

The Fantasticks is an off-Broadway musical, loosely based off Les Romanesques, that first premiered May 3rd, 1960 and is currently the worlds' longest running musical production, originally running for 42 years. As of this writing (January 31st, 2011), it has been revived at the Snapple Theater, also known as the Jerry Orbach Theater, and has been running there since August 23, 2006, now making it about 50 years old.

It's a very popular choice for high schools and small theaters, with its cast of eight, minimal set and costumes, and longtime popularity. Furthermore, the casting frequently crosses the gender line: any roles except Matt, Luisa, and El Gallo can be played by either men or women.

The show begins with the narrator El Gallo (pronounced GUY-o) introducing the audience to the characters and the story. A girl named Luisa, who's a bit... out there and thinks she's a princess. She wears a necklace that belonged to her mother and considers it the most precious thing in the world to her. A boy named Matt, who is in love with Luisa and she loves him. The two are separated by a wall (who is actually played by a person) built by their fathers. They think they're Star-Crossed Lovers, but it's truly a plot by their fathers, who are actually very good friends, to have them fall in love. According to them, if you tell a kid no - they'll do it for sure!

During a secret meeting between Matt and Luisa, Luisa reveals she had a vision of a man coming to kidnap her and Matt fighting him off. Not long after, the fathers meet and discuss how to end their false feud. Matt's father proposes that they hire a professional to do the job. In enters El Gallo, who processed to explain all the various set-ups he can create for the kidnapping. After agreeing on a "first class" kidnapping, El Gallo sets off to find actors to help. Soon he finds Henry (an old Shakespearean actor) and Mortimer (who is really good at death scenes). Both are far past their prime, but he allows them to join anyhow.

Not long after, Matt and Luisa meet again in the forest. El Gallo and the actors appear to kidnap Luisa, but are easily "thwarted" by Matt. Thus the faux-feud ends and everyone lives Happily Ever After... Or do they?

As act two opens, everyone is beginning to realize that Happily Ever After isn't all it's cracked up to be. With the wall torn down, everyone is slowly getting on each other's nerves. A month later, Matt has run away to see the world, leaving Luisa behind and heartbroken, and the fathers have rebuilt the wall. Now El Gallo swoops in and Luisa pleads for him to take her to see the world. He promises he will, and tells her to pack, under the condition that she leave her beloved necklace with him as a promise she will return. As she leaves, Matt returns, bloodied and beaten, and fully aware the world isn't all adventure and fun as he hoped. El Gallo turns to leave with Luisa's necklace, but Matt makes an attempt to stop him. He merely brushes him off and disappears. Luisa comes back to find Matt and comforts him as it begins to snow and they begin to remember their feelings for each other once more.

This show provides examples of:

  • Anywhere but Their Lips: Luisa wishes to be kissed on her eyes.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The French play Les Romanasques (The Romancers) is the source for Act I. Act II is entirely new, and is a Deconstruction of the romantic ideals of the first act.
  • Berserk Button: Don't mess with Bellamy's plants. Or Huckabee's for that matter.
  • Black Comedy Rape:
    • The Rape Ballet. El Gallo insists on referring to "abduction" as "rape" out of loyalty to poetics.
    • "It Depends On What You Pay", which is basically just a long list of different types of "rape." To quote the first lines:
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Luisa and her father. Must be a family trait.
  • Curtain Call: In the film adaptation, the cast comes on for a curtain call after it's over. They're done in order of credit, so the first-credited people (Joel Grey and Barnard Hughes) come on first, even though they don't have the lead parts.
  • Dark Reprise: The introduction to "I Can See It" which El Gallo sings to Matt before he goes down the road to see the world is reprised when El Gallo is luring Luisa down that same path, only now Matt sings of despair and El Gallo sings of marvels.
  • Death as Comedy:
    • Mortimer's specialty is death scenes. His demonstration for El Gallo is generally played as so over the top it's hilarious.
    • Also El Gallo "dying" during the Rape Ballet, which can be played with generous amounts of ham.
  • Feuding Families: Subverted, then played straight.
  • Flynning: When Matt rescues Luisa from El Gallo's "Bandits."
  • Fundamentally Funny Fruit: "You're... standing... in... my... kumquats!" "Sorry!"
  • Genre Savvy: The parents' ploy to get Matt and Luisa to fall in love is based around the fact that children always do what their parents forbid them to do.
  • Hammerspace Hideaway: Henry and Mortimer generally appear out of the box that holds the props Justified: At one point (before they appear) El Gallo says that everything else the show needs is in the box. Implied to be props until the "need" for a couple of actors happens.
  • Heroic BSOD: Luisa after Matt leaves.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One:
    Matt: You're childish.
    Luisa: Child-like.
    Matt: Silly.
    Luisa: Soulful.
    Matt: And you have freckles.
    Luisa: That's a lie!
  • The Ingenue: Luisa, and she's practically proud of it.
  • Insistent Terminology: "I know you prefer 'abduction', but the proper word is 'rape'. It's short and businesslike."
  • It's Pronounced Tro-PAY : It's pronounced "El GUY-o". In Spanish double l's [ll] make a "ya" sound.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: El Gallo hurts Matt and Luisa to show them how much they care about each other. He admits he hurt himself as well.
  • Large Ham: Henry (especially), Mortimer, and El Gallo.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: A film was made in 1995.
  • No Budget:
    • About eight actors needed, a piano, and one harp. Gallo describes some of the scenes to us in poetry instead of using props or settings, and their moon is made of cardboard. The cardboard moon became such an iconic feature that it's now a traditional prop for the play.
    • In-Universe, the budget for a first class rape is reduced to near zero - hence the jobs for Henry and Mortimer, as opposed to good actors.
  • No Fourth Wall: It's El Gallo's job as the narrator to interact with the audience. Everyone else gets in on the action a bit too. It's arguably the best part about the show.
  • Satire/Parody/Pastiche: The musical parodies romanticizing things, but also plays it straight a bit.
  • Snicket Warning Label: The end of Act One is El Gallo practically Tempting Fate about how long this Happily Ever After can last - tempting the audience to stay around for Act Two.
  • Snow Means Love: Luisa and Matt's feelings rekindle for each other as it begins to snow.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Matt and Luisa, or so they think.
  • The Speechless:
    • The wall/ The mute. He also serves as sort of the prop master.
    • In the film version, Mortimer is played by Teller of Penn & Teller fame, and true-to-form has no intelligible lines (though he does speak in some of the deleted scenes).
  • Three Chords and the Truth: In a good way. The music is simple, the lyrics and ideas are sincere, and it can be performed by a cast on any level of talent, pretty much. (With one possible exception: Luisa's role is very difficult to sing, with lots of coloratura soprano sections.)
  • Too Dumb to Live: Mortimer, unfortunately.
  • Tribal Face Paint: Mortimer frequently wears it.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: The conclusion to Act 1 seems to wrap up everything that's happened so far.

FameThe MusicalFiddler on the Roof

alternative title(s): The Fantasticks
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