The Fantasticks and Why We Must Burn a Bit
Start writing a post

The Fantasticks and Why We Must Burn a Bit

Perhaps the secret behind its success relies in its message which is more relevant than ever.

The Fantasticks and Why We Must Burn a Bit
James West - Flickr

In 1960, the musical, "The Fantasticks" decided to take advantage not only of the newly-discovered small-scale musical format, but also a commentary on the concept of the happy ending as it was shown in most musicals of the day. The original production, which called for seven actors and two musicians, ended up running for 42 years making it the longest-running musical of all time. For years later, it opened again on off-Broadway and has run ever since. One may wonder what would make a simple musical like "The Fantasticks" continue to interest audiences in a day with modern and extravagance musicals like "Hamilton." Perhaps the secret is in the message behind the musical, which is possibly even more relevant than ever.

The first act of "The Fantasticks" is more-or-less a traditional story. Two neighbors, Matt, a biology student that believes he knows how the world works and Luisa, a 16-year-old who wants more than anything to be special and have a life of adventure, who try to hide their secret relationship from their feuding fathers. In reality, their fathers simply pretend to fight in an attempt to trick their children into getting married. The narrator, a thief named El Gallo agrees to help the fathers with their plan by arranging a fake kidnapping of Luisa, so Matt can save her. This would give the fathers an excuse to end their feud and allow their children's union. Like would be expected, Matt saves Luisa and everything is viewed as solved.

The second act begins with a rhyming monologue by El Gallo who tells the audience that "life never ends in the moonlit night" and for the play to be finished we all need to be "burned a bit." It is then revealed to the audience that Matt and Luisa and their fathers can't find happiness in their lives and end up viciously fighting with one another. The father's tell the children that the kidnapping was faked, making Luisa no longer see Matt as a hero. Matt attempts to convince her otherwise by challenging El Gallo to a duel, but Luisa merely views this as childish. El Gallo then goes about "helping" both Matt and Luisa by convincing Matt to see the world with the actors that faked the kidnapping and allowing Luisa to accompany him on his adventures. While on their journeys, Matt is often beaten and abuse, and Luisa witnesses the sadness and injustice in the world, but is repeatedly told by El Gallo to put on a pair of glasses that make these problems look beautiful. Eventually, both of them return to their homes. Luisa desires to return to the world with El Gallo, but he leaves her taking her necklace (a gift from her now-deceased mother). El Gallo tells the audience that in addition to hurting Matt and Luisa, he has hurt himself. Matt and Luisa then reconcile having learned more about the world and themselves. Their fathers also mend their friendship and start to destroy the wall diving their two yards before El Gallo returns to say "No. Leave the wall. Remember you must always leave the wall."

The message behind "The Fantasticks" may be simple, but it is important and a little unfortunate. What I view it as is something along the lines of this. Often we believe, or perhaps more accurately hope, that everything will work out the way we think it will. We develop our plans and become so dependent on those plans. However, it's important to remember that sometimes we need to "burn a bit" in order to truly move forward as people and the world. Only through our burning are we able to become more than what we already are. If we keep our minds set on everything working out, we will be disappointed. As El Gallo said, "Their moon was cardboard, fragile. It was very apt to fray, and what was last night scenic may seem cynic by today. The play's not done. Oh no, not quite. For life never ends in the moonlit night; and despite what pretty poets say, the night is only half the day.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Student Life

Holidays With A Small Family

I wouldn't trade what we have for the world.

Matt Johnsn

When I was a kid I always went to my grandparents house whenever we celebrated any sort of holiday. We were a decently sized family and it was always a blessing to be in their house and surrounded by love during the holiday season. However, that all changed when my grandfather passed away and my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The family then began to drift apart and life went on, and we ended up all celebrating our own holidays with other family members.

Keep Reading... Show less

Safe Spaces Or Regressive Spaces?

Turns out shielding yourself from ideas can be detrimental to your ability to learn


College is a place for people who want to learn. That is the primary function of any academic institution. Its purpose is not to coddle us, nor should the community always be in agreement with us. We are supposed to surround ourselves with a variety of viewpoints that challenge us to learn, not the same repetitive points of view that make us happy.

Keep Reading... Show less

Black Friday is back to being Black Friday

This year, malls are standing up against Black Friday beginning on Thanksgiving. Doors won't be opening until Friday morning.


Last week my twitter feed was full of exclamations of how excited people were that our local mall, Westmoreland Mall would be closed on Thanksgiving Day this year. For those who work during the busy holiday days and hours, a celebration was in order. For the die-hard deal finders and shoppers though, they didn’t seem very happy.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

Is Thrift Shopping *Actually* Ethical?

There's been a recent boom in the popularity of vintage style looks and up-cycling thrifted finds to sell at, usually, an outrageous price. Is this ethical? Or does it defeat the whole purpose of thrifting in the first place?

Is Thrift Shopping *Actually* Ethical?

One day, I was scrolling through Twitter and came across a tweet about upper-middle-class class people thrift shopping. I personally was against the up cycling/re-selling trend because I thought it to be greedy. Then, I began to see more and more tweets, and then stated to see ones about those who buy thrifted, name brand items and sell them for what they're actually worth instead of the very low price they got them for.

Keep Reading... Show less

Holidays With the Family?

Should retail outlets close on holidays so their employees can be with their families?


For the past few years, having stores open on Thanksgiving has become a popular trend. The sales have started earlier on the day known as Gray Thursday. Now, the Mall of America has taken a bold stand and is closing its doors on Thanksgiving. They are very excited in giving the day back to their workers so they can spend time with their family.

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments