.

The Fantasticks

Joel Grey, Jean Louisa Kelly

Directed by Michael Ritchie
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 0
Community: star rating
5 0 0
December 11, 2000

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.

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    Song Stories

    “Try a Little Tenderness”

    Otis Redding | 1966

    This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

    More Song Stories entries »
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