The curtain finally comes down on the world's longest-running musical
Monday, January 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
NEW YORK (AP) _ The last sliver of a silver moon was hung, the final handful of confetti was thrown and the fabled white curtain on which the words ``The Fantasticks'' were printed in big purple letters was slowly lowered.
With performance number 17,162, the world's longest-running musical ended its record-breaking, nearly 42-year run Sunday to cheers, whistles and more than a few bravos.
``Sort of like the New Year's Eve ball coming down in Times Square,'' producer Lore Noto said with a laugh as he gently placed the curtain on the floor of the tiny Sullivan Street Playhouse. ``We're setting the bar at 17,162. And God bless and good luck to anybody who wants to beat it.''
After the show, both Jones, who wrote the book and lyrics, and Schmidt, who composed the music, climbed on the small stage to stand with Noto and reminisce about their creation, a simply told tale of young love, tempered and made stronger by adversity.
``This show has always been a part of my life,'' said Schmidt, who recently moved back to Texas from New York. ``I can't imagine it not going on. If I was still here, I probably would feel very strange.''
``It (`The Fantasticks') has been given a real life,'' added Jones. ``It's alive in the memories of hundreds of thousands of people. But more than that, tomorrow night and the day after that it will be presented someplace else.''
The off-Broadway production opened May 3, 1960, to mixed reviews and no advance sale but with a pugnacious producer who coaxed celebrities into coming and built audiences through strong word of mouth.
After four decades, those crowds eventually diminished but they returned last fall when Noto announced the musical was closing for good.
Lucky theatergoers who had tickets for the final performance worked their way through a throng of people standing in a cancellation line or asking for an extra ticket.
``I'm just a big fan,'' gushed Andy Charity, a legal proofreader who held a cardboard sign proclaiming, ``Need 1 ticket.'' `I like the idea of it being in this exact space for more than 40 years. When you look at photos of the original production, you can see the same walls of the theater.''
Some persistent groupies gathered in the narrow passageway leading into the 150-seat theater and listened to the show. Others watched a live feed of the performance on a television monitor in an upstairs gallery where ``Fantasticks'' memorabilia was once displayed.
Among those fortunate enough to get into the theater were Rita Gardner, who was the young girl in the original production, and Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham, who played a variety of roles in the show during a 13-month period in the late 1960s.
And there were a few tears, particularly when ``Try to Remember,'' the musical's most famous song, floated through the theater. ``Of course, it's sad,'' said one theatergoer as he worked his way through the lobby at intermission. ``I'd love to see it continue to run for another 42 years.