Kiaya Scott and Tyler Hecht in Stages' production of The Fantasticks.

Considered the longest running musical in the world, The Fantasticks opened off-Broadway in 1960—and proceeded to stay there for a staggering 42 years and 17,162 performances. Turns out, its 2002 closing was more of an intermission than a final curtain. A revival launched in 2006 and ran for another 11 years.

So what exactly is so enduring about this show?

Loosely based on a turn-of-the-century romantic parody by Edmond Rostand (the playwright behind Cyrano de Bergerac), The Fantasticks weaves an allegorical tale of falling in love for the first time, growing apart, and coming back together.

“It is perfect—dramaturgically, emotionally perfect,” says Kenn McLaughlin, the artistic director at Stages Repertory Theatre, which is inaugurating its new space at The Gordy with a production of the timeless musical. “It just cuts to the core of the human experience of love.”

McLaughlin confessed he had never seen The Fantasticks before he started directing Stages’ production. But he was familiar with the music—which includes the oft-covered “Try to Remember”—and connected with the show’s universal themes.

The Fantasticks, which was written by Texas writing team Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones, is also a love letter to theater, he adds, making it the perfect show to debut the company’s new space. Ironically, McLaughlin didn’t know that the musical was part of Stages’ very first season in 1978 as well as its 1985, the first in its former location on Allen Parkway.

But sometimes, it's kismet.

Runs Jan 24–March 15. Tickets from $25. Stages at The Gordy Sterling Stage, 800 Rosine St., 713-527-0123. More info and tickets at stageshouston.com

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