Love runs rampant: How do you romance a diva like Maria?

Theater types tick boxes on their selections for most romantic musical, play

What do you think is the most romantic play? The most romantic musical? Do any plays/musicals hold special meaning for you? Email csilk@naplesnews.com.

Robert Proksa / sxc.hu

What do you think is the most romantic play? The most romantic musical? Do any plays/musicals hold special meaning for you? Email csilk@naplesnews.com.

WHAT DO YOU THINK

What do you think is the most romantic play? The most romantic musical? Do any plays/musicals hold special meaning for you? Email csilk@naplesnews.com.

— How do you define a romantic play? A romantic musical?

Is it the subject matter? The music? How the show makes you feel?

Turns out, nobody knows. But they've all got an opinion!

"Oh, what a tough question," Rachel Applegate, Campaigns Director for the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, mused.

Applegate settles on musical "West Side Story," the Broadway blockbuster that set Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" among Upper West Side gangs. She describes the show as "tragic and lovely, all at once."

"When Tony sings 'Maria,' I think he says her name something like 25 or more times," Applegate said. "He just can’t get enough of simply her name."

"West Side Story" was Stephen Sondheim's Broadway debut. "Maria," sung by Jets member Tony outside Shark girl Maria's balcony is one of the show's great ballads. The name "Maria" is, as Applegate suggested, spoken or sung in the lyrics 27 total times.

"So very powerful," Applegate adds. "And so very romantic."

"The Fantasticks," a long-running musical that begat song "Try to Remember," features a romance. And at least one production led to a wedding.

The beloved musical ran for more than 42 years and 17,000 performances in New York. Marco Island thespian Carl Back saw the original off-Broadway production of "The Fantasticks" at the Sullivan Street Theatre in 1987 and 1991.

"The score is magical," Back said. "The harp and piano are a nice musical combination guaranteed to transport the crowd to the land of love, promises broken, maturity and resolve."

Back has performed the role of Bellomy in three different productions of "The Fantasticks," but it was a 2008 show at the Barnstable Comedy Club that changed his life.

"I met my wife, Diana, during the show," Back said. "She attended every one of the 10 nights of our run!"

Want more "Fantasticks?" Florida Repertory Theatre will produce "The Fantasticks" from March 20 - April 28. Tickets are $40. Call 239-332-4488.

Musical "Phantom of the Opera" has ardent fans; they can be counted to turn out for any musical theater discussion.

"Phantom!" former Neapolitan actor Jake Hanson wrote in response to a Daily News question on Facebook. "He's willing to kill. If that's not love, what is?"

A similar theme - passion even unto the death - runs through another choice, musical "Aida."

"There is something so romantic about risking it all, even death, for love," actress and Naples Players staff member Jessica Walck said. "They are content to die because they are granted the chance to be buried together and die in each other's arms."

"Phantom" did garner the most votes in our entirely unscientific Internet poll. Other top suggestions included musicals "South Pacific," "Brigadoon" and "Les Miserables."

"Les Miserables is hands down the most romantic musical of all time," Island Theater company co-founder Jean Rowles said.

For Rowles, there's so much love in the show. She ticks them off: "The love between father and daughter; the love between mother and daughter; the love between two young people; the love between friends; and the love of country."

In casting a vote for King Arthur musical "Camelot," Fort Myers actor James Recca praised the show's complicated triangle between friends, spouses and lovers.

"It's got all that intermingled with love of country and what is right," Recca said.

For Broadway Palm owner Will Prather, "The Sound of Music" has been on his mind lately, as the theater just started rehearsals. Yet, the show's tender romance also holds charm for him.

"In many ways, I can relate to the romance of Captain Von Trapp and his future bride Maria," Prather said, "and the love they found while he did everything he could do for the betterment of his family."

Prather also met his wife in a somewhat similar fashion. Andrea Prather applied as a waitress at Broadway Palm in October of 1993. One night of karaoke at Mona Lisa's later ("She had this unbelievable voice."), Andrea was in the ensemble for the Broadway Palm version of "Phantom."

"I was immediately enamored by her beauty, personality and love of life," Prather said. The couple celebrated 17 years on Nov. 5.

The Broadway Palm production of "The Sound of Music" runs Feb. 21 - April 6. Call 239-278-4422.

Among plays, only "Romeo & Juliet," one of William Shakespeare's masterpieces, gained any sort of following.

"The most romantic play is, hands down, 'Romeo and Juliet,'" Walck said.

Other play suggestions included Shakespeare's own "The Winter's Tale," "Enchanted April," "Pygmalion," "Almost, Maine" and A.R. Gurney classic "Love Letters."

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