The Fantasticks – review

Can The Fantasticks really be not only the longest running show in America’s theatre history but also the longest running musical of all time, anywhere? Something must have happened in its journey across the ocean, because this Japanese influenced restaging of a production which first opened in 1960 isn’t even going to last the summer over here. 

In the hippy trippy 60’s, with all sorts of mellowing substances to smooth its path, this whimsical hybrid which purports to have a message (you’re better off with the girl next door than risking the horrors of the world beyond your backyard)  might have suited the spirit of the time. The opening number – Try to Remember – is still hauntingly beautiful, but, in the sober light of the 21st century, this cutesy, self-conscious mix of material filched from Shakespeare and Rostand falls uninspiringly flat.

With only minimal props and scattered handfuls of glitter to create an atmosphere, the music and the plot (in which neighbours Luisa and Matt fall for each other both despite and because of a separating wall and the faked feud between their fathers) need to be far stronger.

A fine-voiced Hadley Fraser (the puppet-master Narrator, donning a Zorro-like cloak to play the bandit El Gallo) deserves better, the leads are easy on the eye, and Edward Petherbridge almost saves the show as a quixotic, doddery old thesp. 

Closing notices have already been posted – but at least the producers can take some comfort in the knowledge that it won’t take long to strike the almost non-existent set.


Duchess, Catherine Street, WC2B 5LA
0844 412 4659
Tube: Charing Cross
Until 26th  June
£25 – £49.50

Review: Louise Kingsley