My high school theater experience was limited to what our department could afford to produce. Besides a Thornton Wilder play, The Fantasticks was an ideal choice for a theater program with zero budget - this was almost entirely due to its lack of essential props and minimal set design. Though high school students may not have grasped the finer nuances or deeper meanings in the script (and may have been forced to cut entire songs from the performance, including the one that constantly screams "rape"), I admit I was grateful to be exposed to such a famous piece so early on.
Tom Jones, book writer and lyricist of The Fantasticks now playing at The Pasadena Playhouse (photo: David Gordon)
According to an article I read on TheaterMania.com, book writer and lyricist Tom Jones is still willing to rewrite parts of his script. After contacting director Seema Sueko, Jones decided to be involved in the production at Pasadena Playhouse in Southern California. Though some of the characters are indeed timeless, Sueko's vision required some of them to change or shift in order to become more relevant to the time. In my opinion, Jones is proving his work is strong by admitting it can still evolve.
He also touches on an important point when dealing with the integrity of an author's script. Jones has, apparently, been known to express frustration with directors or actors who try to do too much instead of simply listening to the words. As a lover of theater and language, I agree that we should mainly allow a playwright's words to speak for themselves. Seldom is there a long-running show that becomes famous due to its many interpretations; a great show always has a solid foundation. After 56 years, The Fantasticks and Tom Jones are still boasting exactly that.