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Tom Jones, Lyricist for Long-Running Musical ‘The Fantasticks,’ Dies at 95

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Tom Jones, the acclaimed lyricist and writer of the hit musical “The Fantasticks,” passed away on Friday at the age of 95. The news of his death was confirmed by his son, Michael, who stated that the cause was cancer. Jones, along with his frequent collaborator Harvey Schmidt, achieved tremendous success with “The Fantasticks,” which ran for an impressive 42 years since its opening in 1960.

Before their groundbreaking work on “The Fantasticks,” Jones and Schmidt first met as students at the University of Texas. While Jones pursued a career in the drama department’s directing program, Schmidt explored his musical talents alongside his studies in the art department. After graduating, the two continued to collaborate on songs by mail during their service in the Korean War.

According to a report by Nytimes.com, Jones tried his luck as a director in New York after his military service but struggled to find work. However, he found success writing for revues produced by Julius Monk and began working on a musical with composer John Donald Robb. Although the collaboration with Robb ultimately ended, Jones and Schmidt continued to refine their work and created a unique, pared-down musical.

Breakthrough with “The Fantasticks”

In 1959, “The Fantasticks” underwent a radical revision for a one-act summer festival at Barnard College. Departing from the traditional formula of big Broadway musicals, the production utilized a narrator, minimalist staging, and unconventional storytelling techniques. The show caught the attention of producer Lore Noto, who brought it to the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village. Opening in May 1960, the musical quickly gained popularity, starring Jerry Orbach and Thomas Bruce (Jones) in secondary roles.

Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, “The Fantasticks” proved to be an enduring success. It went on to become the longest-running musical in history, with over 17,000 performances at Sullivan Street Playhouse before closing its original run in 2002. The show’s revival in 2006 also enjoyed significant success, running for over 4,300 performances.

A Legacy of Collaboration

In addition to “The Fantasticks,” Jones and Schmidt worked together on several other projects. Jones wrote the book and lyrics for Schmidt’s music in “110 in the Shade,” which opened on Broadway in 1963. The show garnered Tony Award nominations for both men. They collaborated once again on “I Do! I Do!,” which ran for over a year on Broadway in the mid-1960s and received critical acclaim.

Despite their success with other productions, “The Fantasticks” remained their most significant achievement. Not only did the show make an indelible mark on the theater industry, but it also showcased Jones and Schmidt’s ability to create music and lyrics that resonated with audiences worldwide.

Key Takeaway

  • Tom Jones, the lyricist for “The Fantasticks,” died at the age of 95.
  • “The Fantasticks” opened in 1960 and ran for an astonishing 42 years.
  • Jones collaborated with Harvey Schmidt on numerous other successful musicals.
  • Their work on “The Fantasticks” broke traditional Broadway conventions.
  • The musical became the longest-running in history, with over 17,000 performances.

Credit: nytimes.com

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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