Shawn Hale (left) and Mike Musick (right) are ready to share the slaphappy production, The Fantasticks. (Photo by Karen Elb)

By PAM JOHNSON

The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is honored to bring the longest running musical ever — The Fantasticks — to its stage. This show is bound to touch your heart and soul in such a way as to brighten your outlook on family, relationships, and life in general.

“The Fantasticks is a love story but so much more,” director Karen Elb said. “Through our narrator, we meet the characters and discover that two neighbors have built a wall between their gardens, apparently to keep their children apart, but these fathers have a secret plan to use reverse psychology to make their children fall in love. As the story unfolds, we go on a bittersweet journey of romance, challenge, heartache, and growth.”

Jonesborough resident Tom Flagg had the privilege of being in the cast of The Fantasticks in New York City’s Off-Broadway production. He loves the show and encourages everyone to attend. “The essential story about ‘a boy, a girl, two fathers, and a wall’ can be traced back centuries to plays like Pyramus and Thisbe, or Romeo and Juliet. But, unlike its predecessors, The Fantasticks is a coming of age story—a musical drama with lighter moments, rather than a tragedy littered with the bodies of fallen lovers, family, and friends.

“If there is a byword for The Fantasticks,” Tom continued, “I guess it would be ‘simplicity.’ The original set was a simple platform for a stage, a few lights, and a large theatrical trunk from which the entire show emanates. The Narrator, who becomes the protagonist of the story, delivers all the exposition for the audience. Nearly everything he mentions (costumes, props, a smaller trunk, and even two actors) comes out of that large trunk. The idea being that, at the end of the show, everything goes back into the box to be carted off to a different town, and a different theater, to tell the story all over again.”

The JRT is thrilled to present such an iconic show and such a special gift to the community. And audiences will be delighted by the sweet, poignant and familiar tunes such as “Try to Remember” and “Soon It’s Gonna Rain.”

“This show is the longest running show in history,” said Shawn Hale, who plays one of the fathers. “When you see it you will know why. It is funny, eccentric, touching and imaginative.”

Joe Gumina, who portrays El Gallo, the Narrator, agreed. “One of the reasons for The Fantasticks‘ longevity and broad appeal is that it offers insight for every age group. Its observations about adolescence, love, parenting, heartbreak, and so on, are timeless and universal and, I think, would be relatable to all our patrons.”

“The Fantasticks is a play that truly has it all,” Karen emphasized. “If you love a story with beautiful music, comedy, drama, romance, a bit of action, and a dash of self-referential humor, this is the show for you.”

The book and lyrics of The Fantasticks are by Tom Jones, and the music is by Harvey Schmidt. The show is directed by Karen Elb and music directed by Jennifer Ross. It is sponsored by Gary & Sandee Degner, Ignaci Fonberg, and Sonia King/Mary B. Martin.

Rounding out the cast are Dave Bernhardt, Lindy Ley, Mike Musick, Lucas Schmidt, Garry Smith, and Catherine Squibb.

Show times are Thursdays through Sundays at 7:30pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00pm. Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 for students and seniors. The theatre is located at 125.5 West Main Street, Jonesborough, TN. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 423.753.1010 or go online to www.jonesboroughtheatre.com.