Tom Jones, Lyricist and Librettist of Long-Running ‘The Fantasticks,’ Dies at 95

Posted By: Shweta Khandal

Posted On: August 13, 2023


Tom Jones, the writer of the book and words for the famous musical “The Fantasticks,” passed away on Friday at his home in Sharon, Conn. He was 95 years old.

Tom Jones and composer Harvey Schmidt, who is no longer with us, created the musical “The Fantasticks.” It started in 1960 in Greenwich Village and kept running off-Broadway for an incredible 42 years. This musical is well-known for its first song, “Try to Remember.”

Tom Jones was born on February 17, 1928, in Littlefield, Texas. He went to the University of Texas at Austin, where he met his creative partner Schmidt.

After serving in the Korean War, Jones moved to New York City and started his theater career by writing for the shows put on by producer Julius Monk.

He also worked with composer John Donald Robb and together they came up with “Joy Comes to Deadhorse,” a musical western loosely based on Edmond Rostand’s play from 1894 called “Les Romanesques.”

They had a disagreement over creative choices, so Jones teamed up with Schmidt to keep working on the project, which eventually transformed into “The Fantasticks.”

In 1959, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt showcased a shorter version of their show titled “The Fantasticks” at a summer festival held at Barnard College.

Producer Lore Noto saw this version and later brought the musical, now expanded into two acts, to the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village.

The show premiered on May 3, 1960. The original cast featured Tom Jones as Henry, the Old Actor, and Jerry Orbach as El Gallo, the narrator who sings “Try to Remember.”

Even though “The Fantasticks” received mixed reviews initially, it went on to run at Sullivan Street Playhouse for over 17,000 performances until 2002. This made it the musical with the longest continuous run in U.S. history.

Besides “The Fantasticks,” Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt collaborated on other musicals like “I Do! I Do!” and “110 in the Shade.” The latter premiered on Broadway in 1963 and had a run of 330 performances.

Tom Jones was nominated for Tony Awards for both “I Do! I Do!” and “110 in the Shade.” Additionally, he won the Drama Desk Vernon Rice Award for “The Fantasticks” in 1961.

A new version of “The Fantasticks” was brought back in 2006 and ran for over 4,300 performances until 2017. This revival was off-Broadway and directed by Tom Jones himself, who also acted again as Henry, the Old Actor.

Tom Jones is survived by his sons Michael and Sam Jones from his second marriage to choreographer Janet Watson, who sadly passed away in 2016.

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