On May 3, 1960, The Fantasticks opened at the tiny Sullivan Street Playhouse in New York's Greenwich Village. The intimate, eight-actor, two-musician musical by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt continued to light up the Sullivan Street stage until January 13, 2002 by which time it had earned the moniker "The World's Longest-Running Musical." Appropriately enough, the Playhouse closed along with the show- its 19th century Greek revival rowhouse home turned into glass-windowed luxury condominiums - but The Fantasticks wasn't down for long. The show reopened uptown on August 16, 2006 at a venue that would be christened The Jerry Orbach Theater after The Fantasticks' original leading man, and that revival played until June 4, 2017, notching another 4,390 shows. In the interim, The Fantasticks inspired a television staging and a movie, and became a staple around the world - including in Mexico, where its first international cast recording was made. The 1961 LP of Los Fantastikos was released on the local Columbia arm, quickly becoming a high-priced collectible. Now, the U.K.'s Stage Door Records is premiering that "holy grail" of international cast albums on CD with a clutch of rare bonus tracks. The deluxe release arrives in stores on November 18 but is already shipping directly from the label.
The Fantasticks was loosely based on Les Romanesques, a play by Edmond Rostand (Cyrano de Bergerac) about two neighboring fathers who devise a plan to trick their children into falling in love by staging a mock feud. Off-Broadway in 1960, Kenneth Nelson and Rita Gardner played Matt and Luisa, a.k.a. The Boy and The Girl, with William Larsen and Hugh Thomas as their "feuding" fathers. Jerry Orbach took the role of El Gallo, a mysterious bandit who serves as narrator. Tom Jones, as Thomas Bruce, portrayed The Old Actor, enlisted to kidnap Luisa so Matt would rescue her. Jones and Schmidt's lovely score introduced such future standards as "Try to Remember," sung by El Gallo and "Soon It's Gonna Rain," Matt and Luisa's beautiful duet. Along with "Soon It's Gonna Rain," Luisa's "Much More" was among the songs in Barbra Streisand's early repertoire, recorded live at the Bon Soir and in the studio for The Barbra Streisand Album. "Try to Remember" saw three different covers reach the U.S. Hot 100 in 1965 (Ed Ames, Roger Williams, Barry McGuire) while Gladys Knight and the Pips gave it a second lease on (pop) life in 1975 as part of a medley with "The Way We Were."
The 1961 Mexico City production was adapted into Spanish by Luis de Llano and Martha Fischer and opened on April 6 at the Teatro del Bosque. It starred Armando Calvo as El Gallo, Maria Rivas as Luisa, Antonio Gama as Matt, and Ortiz de Pinedo and Guillermo Orea as the fathers. Los Fantastikos was one of a string of Spanish-language productions brought to Mexico by Luis de Llano and Rene Anselmo; their previous stagings included Bells Are Ringing, The Boy Friend, and Redhead, all in Spanish. (The Mexico City cast album of Redhead, a.k.a. La Pelirroja, has previously been issued on CD by Stage Door.) The Mexico City cast album featured the same sequence of songs as the original off-Broadway recording.
Stage Door has bolstered its release with eight bonus tracks. These include both sides of the single recorded in Swedish by Christian Bratt, star of the 1961 Stockholm production; three additional Swedish cover recordings; and four pop covers from Harry Belafonte, James Shigeta, Don Rondo, and Gerrit van Triest. This pressing, made possible by current U.K. public domain laws, is limited to 500 units only. Look for it on November 18 from Stage Door or order now for quick shipment from the label. You'll find order links and the track listing below.
Los Fantastikos: Original Mexico City Cast Recording (Columbia LP DCA 178, 1961 - reissued Stage Door STAGE 9095, 2022) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada / Stage Door Records)
- Obertura (Overture)
- Dice la gente (Try to Remember)
- Soñar, sonar (Much More)
- Tu eres amor (Metaphor)
- Nunca digas no (Never Say No)
- El rapto (It Depends On What You Pay)
- Septiembre (You Wonder How These Things Begin)
- Pronto va a llover (Soon It's Gonna Rain)
- El ballet del rapto (The Rape Ballet)/Happy ending
- Quita el claro de la luna (This Plum Is Too Ripe)
- Detras del mar (I Can See It)
- El reino vegetal (Plant a Radish)
- Baila baila (Round and Round)
- Paradoja (There's a Curious Paradox)
- Eres tu (They Were You)
- Dice la gente (Reprise) (Try to Remember - Reprise)
- Minns I November (Try to Remember) - Christian Bratt (Karusell single BFF 377, 1962)
- Brudrovarsangen (It Depends on What You Pay) - Christian Bratt (Karusell single BFF 377, 1962)
- Minns I November (Try to Remember) - Per Myrberg (Metronome J45 606, 1961)
- Allt Var Du (They Were You) - Per Myrberg (Metronome J45 606, 1961)
- Regnet Kommer Snart (Soon It's Gonna Rain) - Lars Lonndahl (RCA single FAS 659, 1962)
- Try to Remember - Harry Belafonte (from The Many Moods of Belafonte, RCA LP LSP-2574, 1962)
- Soon It's Gonna Rain - James Shigeta (from We Speak the Same Language, Choreo LP AS-7, 1962)
- They Were You - Don Rondo (Carlton single 551, 1961)
- Try to Remember - Gerrit van Triest (from Remember Me, Philips LP 110 730 Y, 1962)
Charles Olver says
A little over a month ago - acting on an idle whim - I happened to look up Rita Gardner (who played Luisa in the original cast) to see what else she'd done, and learned that she had died THAT DAY (Sept. 24). Nothing to do with this recording, of course, but I thought I should mention it. R.I.P.