With lines and lyrics that are both enduring and endearing, the Eight O'Clock Theatre brings The Fantasticks to Largo this weekend. A classic coming-of-age story, The Fantasticks launched the career of Jerry Orbach in 1960 and went on to become the world's longest running musical. It plays on countless stages throughout the world.
"Most people are familiar with The Fantasticks and maybe have even been in it in high school or local theater," said Jason Tucker, the director of the Largo production.
Tucker, well known to local theatergoers as an actor and director, moved from St. Petersburg to New York City a year ago and has returned to the area for this production.
The show will run Thursdays through Sundays through the end of July.
The Fantasticks is done in a minimalistic style. A pianist plays live on stage, the sets are simple and the cast is small. The focus is the story and the audience is invited to participate.
"This is about using what we have on hand at the theater to tell the story we want to tell," said Tucker. "The audience participates with us to help create what we want to create."
To heighten the sense of intimacy, Tucker has created a 12-foot extension to the stage to bring the action closer to the audience.
Tucker says one of the challenges with this production is getting the word out. Forever Plaid was planned for this slot in the theater's season, but licensing restrictions caused that production to be canceled.
With only three weeks of rehearsal, Tucker said the performers excelled at creating strong characters.
"The actor needs to live in their character's world the whole time they are on stage — from a small choreographed move to making an exit," said Tucker. "It is exciting to work with a group that cares passionately about what they're bringing to the stage."