“The Fantasticks” is famous for longevity. Dwight D. Eisenhower was President when the show opened Off-Broadway in 1960. It ran for some 42 years – a theatrical record. The show is likewise famous for its moody, reflective opening song, “Try to Remember.”
It is a lovely opening number, covered by Andy Williams, Perry Como, and other crooners who favored a soothing style rooted in the 1950s.
But alas, once you get past that classic song, the rest of the score is pretty routine. And the story deals in clichés. We meet a 19-year-old boy -- a preppy college student who is ready to embark on a humdrum career.
The girl dreams of meeting an older Latin lover, who will abduct her. The preppy college boy becomes the knight in shining armor riding to her rescue. The plot gets more complicated, but overall, it’s pretty thin.
Another thing – a show like “The Fantasticks” fares best in a cozy cabaret setting. Lake Tahoe Shakespeare has a 1,100 seat outdoor amphitheater.
Fortunately, the singing and acting in this show are strong – particularly during the first half. But this is a show in which the men do most of talking and make almost all of the decisions – the only female with a voice is the ditzy teenage girl. This is an odd recipe for a musical addressing life and love. You could say that this a well-mounted production of a musical revue that charmed audiences half a century ago. But given the way it has dated with the passage of years, “The Fantasticks” might better be put out to pasture now.
The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival production of “The Fantasticks” continues through August 23.