The Fantasticks, the film version of the off-Broadway musical that's still running after a record-breaking forty years, was shot five years ago by director Michael Ritchie. No release until now. Uh-oh. Disaster? Pretty much. It was folly for Ritchie to shoot a spare theatrical piece against the sweeping landscapes of the Arizona prairie. But the folly sometimes pays off. Joe McIntyre, of New Kids on the Block, and Jean Louisa Kelly catch just the right note of youthful yearning in their voices (digital wizardry allowed the actors to sing live) as the teens whose fathers (Joel Grey and Brad Sullivan) scheme to bring them together by keeping them apart. The dads' plan involves hiring a traveling magician, El Gallo (a flamboyant Jonathon Morris), to stage a phony rape. Never mind. Even as the movie threatens to derail, the charm of the score, by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt — "Try to Remember," "Soon It's Gonna Rain," "I Can See It" — keeps breaking through.
From The Archives Issue 226: November 18, 1976