By: Sam Wagmeister/People & Places
The barren black-walled warehouse was reminiscent of a menacing film noir scene; fifteen people were seated at the four tables arranged in a square, heads bowed pouring over the manuscripts before them. The room had fallen weirdly hushed.
The silence was broken by Jersey Boys alumnus Michael Erickson’s deep, bellowing yet soft and melodic vocal contribution…Try to remember the kind of September, when life was slow and oh so mellow…
Those opening lines of the opening song from The Fantastiks, lifted the cloud that had descended over composer/arranger/conductor and now-director, Bill Fayne. Fayne’s decades-long dream of bringing the longest running musical to Las Vegas was crushed during production when the Onyx Theater closed last year.
Unbeknownst to Fayne, Las Vegas hoofer Gary Colombo, recognized by many for his Gene Kelly tribute, followed the ups and downs of Fayne’s Fantastiks on Facebook. Colombo approached the folks at Super Summer Theater who maintained a warehouse in an industrial area near the Orleans.
A plan was developed to turn that space into a black box theater, a very basic, stripped-down venue. Colombo, like Fayne, had fallen in love with the show decades earlier; as a 19-year old he performed in the National Touring Company.
“I’ve been waiting 20 years to do this play in Vegas,” Colombo said. After Fayne and Colombo met, new life was breathed into the project. “We are both really passionate about the show,” Fayne said.
The full cast and crew gathered in early September for the first reading with spine-tingling results. “I’ve never been to a better first reading,” Colombo commented of his 47 years theatrical experience. The cast quickly absorbed the power of Erickson’s opening notes.
Fayne, who first saw the show in 1963, promises to be true to the original script, adding “I’m a romantic; it’s the most romantic show I know.”
The off-Broadway production of The Fantastiks opened in 1960, running over 17,000 performances before closing last June.
The Fantastiks two weekend performances opens November 9 with 7 pm and matinee performances. For tickets, www.SuperSummerTheater.org or visit Prestige Travel, 7500 W. Lake Mead, Las Vegas.