HomeTop StoriesTom Jones, creator of the longest-running musical 'The Fantasticks', dies at age...

Tom Jones, creator of the longest-running musical ‘The Fantasticks’, dies at age 95

NEW YORK (AP) — Tom Jones, the lyricist, director and writer of “The Fantasticks,” the longest-running musical in history, has passed away. He turned 95.

Jones died Friday at his home in Sharon, Connecticut, according to Dan Shaheen, a “The Fantasticks” co-producer who had worked with Jones since the 1980s. The cause was cancer.

Jones, who collaborated with composer Harvey Schmidt on “The Fantasticks” and the Broadway shows “110 in the Shade” and “I Do! I Do!”, was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1998.

‘The Fantasticks’, based on an obscure play by Edmond Rostand, doesn’t necessarily have to be a hit. The set is just a platform with poles, a curtain and a wooden box.

The story, a mock version of “Romeo and Juliet,” involves a young girl and boy, secretly brought together by their fathers, and an assortment of strange characters.

Numerous actors have appeared on the show, from the opening cast in 1960 with Jerry Orbach and Rita Gardner, to stars like Ricardo Montalban and Kristin Chenoweth, to “Frozen” star Santino Fontana. The show was awarded the 1991 Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre.

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“So many people have come, and this thing remains the same — the platform, the wooden box, the cardboard moon,” Jones told The Associated Press in 2013. “We just come and do our thing and then we move on.”

For nearly 42 years, the show chugged on at the 153-seat Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village, finally ending in 2002 after 17,162 performances—a victim of both a devastated post-9/11 downtown and a new post-terrorist, tense atmosphere.

In 2006, “The Fantasticks” found a new home at The Snapple Theater Center – later The Theater Center – an off-Broadway complex in the heart of Times Square. In 2013, the show celebrated reaching 20,000 performances. It closed in 2017, finishing as the longest-running production of any kind in the history of American theater with a total of 21,552 performances.

“My mind doesn’t understand it in a way,” Jones said. “It’s like life itself – you get used to it and you don’t notice how extraordinary it is. I’m grateful for it and amazed by it.”

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Its most famous song, “Try To Remember,” has been recorded by hundreds of artists over the decades, including Ed Ames, Harry Belafonte, Barbra Streisand, and Placido Domingo. “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” and “They Were You” are also among the musical’s most well-known songs.

The lyrics for “Try to Remember” read: “Try to remember the kind of September / When life was slow and oh, so soft. / Try to remember the kind of September / When grass was green and grain was yellow.”

The longevity came despite early reviews that weren’t too kind. The critic from the New York Herald Tribune only liked Act 2, and the critic from The New York Times sniffed that the show was “the kind of thing that loses magic the longer it goes on”.

In 1963, Jones and Schmidt wrote the Broadway show “110 in the Shade,” which earned the duo a Tony Award nomination for Best Composer and Lyricist. “I Do! I Do!” Their two-character Broadway musical followed in 1967 and also earned them a Tony nomination for Best Composer and Lyricist.

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Jones is survived by two sons, Michael and Sam.

‘Such a good guy. I really adored him,” Broadway veteran Danny Burstein wrote on Facebook.


Mark Kennedy can be reached at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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