Deep thoughts, random insights, and musings by Susan Jacobs

Friday, September 29, 2006

September dreams

The leaves are starting to change color and all of a sudden wearing a jacket has become a necessity, not just a precaution. It’s late September, and I hardly know what has become of my favorite month.

September has held a special place in my imagination since I first saw the musical “The Fantasticks” when I was twelve years old. In the play, the month of September is a metaphor for the season of romance. While most of us spend the Septembers of our youth readjusting to school and lamenting the end of summer, when you stop and think about it, it is an ideal time for long walks and quiet talks. The weather is mild, the days are still relatively long, and the nights are filled with cricket songs. “The perfect time to be in love,” as the narrator tells us in “The Fantasticks.”

At this time of year, I tend to take out my recording of the soundtrack for “The Fantasticks” and allow my romantic notions to bloom anew. Between the romance of September and the optimism of the Jewish new year, this time of year always feels to me like one of great promise.

I was happy to find out several weeks ago that, after a four-year absence, “The Fantasticks” has returned to the New York theatre scene. I saw the musical several times in its long-time home, the Sullivan Street Theater, including one last time in December 2001, not long before the show ended its run in January 2002. At that time, the play’s themes of hope and disappointment and happy resolution and of Trying to Remember a certain kind of September were especially poignant following the terrorist attacks of September 11, just blocks from the theater in lower Manhattan.

Soon after, I wrote a column for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the play’s influence on my own life. Four years later, most of the lessons still apply.

As I understand it, the new production of “The Fantasticks” includes some revisions to songs and lyrics, but preserves the special spirit of the show. It is still performed with minimal scenery and props, and still acted in front of small, intimate audiences. I was so happy to hear about this revival because, having attended some amateur productions of the musical, there is nothing quite like the real thing. And, anyone who has seen the show can attest that there seems to be an oral tradition associated with the show that is presumably passed from one cast to the next. It gives me great comfort that the actors in this new production can still learn from the musical’s creators about staging for certain critical scenes and about the richness of meaning implied by the script.

Next time I’m in New York, I hope to go see “The Fantasticks” and the revival of “A Chorus Line,” which I never saw on Broadway, but which I have loved for years because of the movie based on the musical.

September is closing, but the new year is just beginning, and I have very high hopes for the year ahead – both theatrical and personal.

A belated Shana Tova to all my readers!


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