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A lighter, gentler 'The Fantasticks'

When "The Fantasticks" musical first debuted off-Broadway in 1960, one song in the play used the word "rape" more than 30 times.

While writer Tom Jones was referring to the word's latin root, meaning "to abduct," most references to the word have been altered or removed in the production taking the stage tonight at North Medford High School.

Drama Director John Doty cast 10 students in the once-controversial play, which runs through Saturday at the North Medford Auditorium, 1900 N. Keene Way Drive.

Doty said the students are performing an altered version of the play made available to schools, which changes many uses of the word "rape" to either "raid," "pay" or "abduction," depending on the context.

During the play's 40-year, off-Broadway run, the lyrics were altered to have fewer instances of the word "rape." And an instrumental song once titled "Rape Ballet" was changed to "Abduction Ballet."

"The original language in the play was a more archaic version of the word," said Doty, who routinely teaches the play in his advanced theater class.

The school first performed the play in 2007, at which time they received support from the principal and activity director, Doty said.

The most controversial song, "It Depends On What You Pay," originally used "rape" at least 33 times, but the altered version at North Medford uses the word only once.

"The song survives, but with modified lyrics," Doty said.

Since the play ran in 2007, Music Theatre International took out the three remaining instances of "rape," but Doty chose to leave them in to preserve authenticity.

Students in the play are well aware of the word's archaic and modern meanings and justified their adaptation and use of the word.

"We do know the word carries weight; it's definitely an attention getter," said junior Spencer Funk. "But here it isn't meant to be violent or mean."

In the play, Funk plays El Gallo, who narrates the love story of Matt and Luisa, played by juniors Ricky Cervantes and Rachel Warren.

It's a boy-meets-girl story with strong appeal, according to stage manager Bri Owens.

"The women will like the love story, and guys will enjoy the battle scenes," Owens said.

Doty also championed the popularity of the play — which he saw for the first time when he was 10 years old.

"It's an accessible, emotional, social space for everyone," said Doty. "It's universal."

Since first seeing the play as a child, Doty said, the scope of the meaning of the word "rape" has narrowed.

"That word has tunneled into this one meaning," said Doty. "From my childhood to my adulthood, "rape" has had that evolution."

Doty teamed with former music teacher Sean Warren to produce the play, because he believed he had the right cast to perform it.

"I've been sitting and waiting for a cast that can sing it," said Doty. "You really have to have a feel for the material to deliver it."

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.

North Medford High School juniors Ricky Cervantes, bottom, Spender Funk and Rachel Warren rehearse the abduction scene from “The Fantasticks.” Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Bob Pennell