The Fantasticks

Think The Mousetrap and you get some idea of the longevity of this iconic little show. When it opened in 1960 it almost died at its birth. But its producer Lore Noto sank his life savings and his trust into it. The result is a legend that has run for the past fifty years in New York.
So here it is back in London, in a brand new production by Japanese director Amon Miyamoto with an English cast that includes Clive Rowe, David Burt, Paul Hunter (of Told by an Idiot) and the evergreen Edward Petherebridge.
Indeed it’s the white-haired Petherbridge sending himself up deliciously as Henry, a crumbly thespian of the classic school who almost runs away with the show. In the end, it’s hauled back to its driving concept – young love and life’s harsh lessons – by the tunefulness of Harvey Schmidt’s music and the artfulness of Tom Jones’ book and lyrics.
Mixing sentiment with a tongue-in-cheek, impromptu quality that also produced shows like The Rocky Horror Show, Jones and Schmidt pull together snatches of Shakespeare, a touch here and there of music hall and even throw in a benign `Devil’ character to act as overseer and narrator to bring their tender flower to full flowering.
Miyamoto, aiming to recreate the show for a new generation, misjudges certain aspects. Having the audience onstage adds nothing. And Rowe and Burt are allowed to over-act disastrously.
But Luke Brady as The Boy is a find, strong in voice, sincere in acting who delivers that youthful vision of hope and hunger to experience life, `Beyond that Road’, with convincing passion. Along with Hadley Fraser’s attractive, charismatic narrator and the aforementioned Petherbridge, the show’s wisdoms and wit are brought safely to harbour.
Even if Miyamoto doesn’t get it all right, It’s hard to dislike a show that contains the unforgettable `Try to Remember’ – a song that so perfectly encapsulates innocence and nostalgia for a simpler time that probably never was but seemed like it.
Hopelessly sentimental in parts, The Fantasticks still has the power to touch hearts, young and old alike.