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“Special fusion of East and West” celebrated at Fantasticks launch

Published April 22, 2010

The typically British Adam Street Private Members Club, with its low key, almost disguised entrance, hosted the launch of a production which promises to be, according to co-producer Nica Burns, a “special fusion of East and West”.

The record-breaking musical The Fantasticks, which opened in New York in 1960 and played for 42 years, has been re-imagined by Japanese director Amon Miyamoto and will play at the Duchess theatre this summer.

“The incredible vision and visual sense and sensibility the Japanese have, a completely different sensibility to us,” said Burns at last night’s launch, would be brought “to this really delightful, charming musical.”

Miyamoto is a newcomer to the London theatre scene, having spent the majority of his career working in Tokyo, but it was the vision and style of the director that convinced London stage regular Clive Rowe to commit to the production. He told Official London Theatre that at the audition, “[Miyamoto] immediately made me understand what he wanted without making me feel like a fool because I hadn’t done it. If he’d been doing it in Kirkcaldy in somebody’s back room, I’d probably – if I had the time and the money in the bank – gone ‘Yeah, I’ll come and work for you’ because I respected him as a director straight away. I don’t care about a person’s reputation; I care about how they’re going to work with me.”

He was among a slew of cast and crew praising Miyamoto for his reinvention of a musical written 50 years ago. Among his admirers is The Fantasticks’s octogenarian book writer and lyricist Tom Jones who, after nearly half a century of seeing his show performed in the same way, was delighted when Miyamoto brought his own flair to the piece when he originally presented it in Tokyo in 2003.

Though reinvention is key to this new production, Rowe had a note of caution to add: “You don’t do a Greek tragedy and turn it into a comedy; it’s a Greek tragedy. This is an old musical, but it’s about love, and love is present. It’s about loss, and loss is present. None of the issues in this piece are not relative to today and the world we live in. That, for me, stops it from being old and makes it theatre.”

The tale of two fathers who try to engineer the love affair of their children will be staged in a Duchess theatre which, following the closure of Ghosts, is currently being refurbished. Owner Burns told the gathered crowd last night, with more than a little delight, that she, personally, “took a sledgehammer to the lavatories”.

When the audiences come to see The Fantasticks, Burns concluded, they will “go into this lovely, little, magical house [where they will be] enchanted for a couple of hours and go out into the sunny, balmy summer evening with a lovely smile of delight on their faces.”

MA

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