untung99.biz: Tom Jones Dead The Fantasticks Lyricist and Librettist Was 95

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Tom Jones, who wrote the book and lyrics for the longest-running musical “The Fantasticks,” died Friday at his home in Sharon, Conn. He was 95.

Jones’ son Michael told The New York Times the cause was cancer.

Jones and the late composer Harvey Schmidt created the musical allegory “The Fantasticks,” which opened in 1960 in Greenwich Village and ran off-Broadway for a staggering 42 years. The musical is known for its opening song, “Try to Remember,” as well as “Soon It’s Gonna Rain,” made popular apart from the show by Barbra Streisand.

Jones was born in Littlefield, Texas, on Feb. 17, 1928. He attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he first met his longtime collaborator Schmidt.

After serving in the Korean War, Jones moved to New York and began his theater career by writing for the revues being staged by the impresario Julius Monk. He also worked with composer John Donald Robb, with whom he developed “Joy Comes to Deadhorse,” a musical western loosely based on Edmond Rostand’s 1894 play “Les Romanesques.” The two had a falling out over creative differences, so Jones turned to Schmidt to continue working on the piece, which eventually evolved into “The Fantasticks.”

In 1959, Jones and Schmidt presented a one-act, pared-down version of their show as “The Fantasticks” at a summer festival at Barnard College. Producer Lore Noto saw the production at Barnard and brought the musical, expanded to two acts, to the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village, where it opened on May 3, 1960. The original cast included Jones as Henry, the Old Actor, and Jerry Orbach as El Gallo, the narrator, who performs “Try to Remember.”

Although “The Fantasticks” received mixed reviews, the musical ran at Sullivan Street for more than 17,000 performances until 2002, making it the longest-running musical in U.S. history.

In addition to “The Fantasticks,” Jones and Schmidt worked together on “I Do! I Do!” and “110 in the Shade,” which opened on Broadway in 1963 and ran for 330 performances. Jones earned Tony nominations for “I Do! I Do!” and “110 in the Shade,” and won the Drama Desk Vernon Rice Award for “The Fantasticks” in 1961.

Their most famous show found a reach far beyond off-Broadway when a “Hallmark Hall of Fame” presentation took “The Fantasticks” to a national TV audience in 1964, with stars including Ricardo Montalban, John Davidson, Bert Lahr and Stanley Holliday.

A film version of “The Fantasticks” was shot in 1995 by director Michael Ritchie with New Kids on the Block’s Joey McIntyre and Jean Louisa Kelly as the young romantic leads, Joel Grey and Brad Sullivan as the fathers, and Teller (of Penn & Teller), Jonathon Morris and Barnard Hughes filling out the cast. The late ’90s represented a low ebb for live-action movie musicals, though, and after test screenings, the film was shelved for five years. In 2000, Frances Ford Coppola did his own edit of the movie, with Ritchie’s approval, and it received a small theatrical release. Both the Ritchie and Coppola cuts came out on a Twilight Time Blu-Ray.

A revival of “The Fantasticks” opened in 2006 and ran for more than 4,300 performances until 2017. The off-Broadway production was directed by Jones, who also reprised his role as Henry, the Old Actor.

“Soon It’s Gonna Rain” was recorded by Streisand on her debut album. She had reportedly tried out for the original off-Broadway production of “The Fantasticks,” but obviously wasn’t so rankled by not getting cast that she held it against the song. At one point early in his marriage to Streisand in the ’60s, Elliott Gould discussed doing a movie version that would have paired the two of them on screen; Gould had toured the show earlier with Liza Minnelli.

Others who recorded “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” included Tony Bennett, Duke Ellington, We Five, Mandy Patinkin and Julie London.

“Try to Remember” became an international hit in 1975 in the hands of Gladys Knight & the Pips, who made a medley of it with “The Way We Were.” Others among the song’s roughly 200 cover versions include renditions by Josh Groban, the Temptations, Roy Orbison, the Four Tops, Liza Minnelli, Patti LaBelle, Harry Belafonte, Rick Nelson, Ed Ames and the Kingston Trio.

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