Tom Jones, the brilliant lyricist, director, and author who brought to life the timeless masterpiece ‘The Fantasticks,’ which holds the distinction of being the longest-running musical in history, has left us. He was 95.
Tom Jones, a name synonymous with theatrical magic, bid farewell on Friday at his residence in Sharon, Connecticut. Dan Shaheen, a co-producer of ‘The Fantasticks’ and a long-time collaborator of Jones since the 1980s, shared the news of his passing. The cause was cancer.
Collaborating with composer Harvey Schmidt, Tom Jones gave life to not just ‘The Fantasticks,’ but also contributed significantly to Broadway with acclaimed productions such as ‘110 in the Shade’ and ‘I Do! I Do!’ His impact was duly recognized when he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1998.
From humble beginnings, ‘The Fantasticks,’ inspired by an obscure play by Edmond Rostand, defied all odds to become an enduring hit. Its minimalist stage design, featuring little more than a platform, curtains, and a wooden box, provided the backdrop for a captivating tale – a whimsical twist on the classic ‘Romeo and Juliet’ narrative, weaving together the lives of two young hearts secretly brought together by their fathers, surrounded by a cast of charmingly peculiar characters.
Tom Jones’ creative genius gave birth to the heart and soul of ‘The Fantasticks,’ which mesmerized audiences for an astonishing 21,552 performances. This remarkable journey began in 1960 with a cast that included icons like Jerry Orbach and Rita Gardner. From there, stars like Ricardo Montalban, Kristin Chenoweth, and even Santino Fontana of ‘Frozen’ fame, graced the stage, making it an experience to remember.
The accolades showered upon ‘The Fantasticks’ are a testament to its excellence. In 1991, it was honored with Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre. This enduring musical journey, both poignant and captivating, left a lasting impression on the hearts of countless theater enthusiasts.
The musical score of ‘The Fantasticks’ resonates through time. Its iconic anthem, “Try To Remember,” has been rendered by countless artists across generations – from Ed Ames and Harry Belafonte to Barbra Streisand and Placido Domingo. The enchanting melodies of “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” and “They Were You” continue to stir emotions, etching their place in the annals of musical history.
Tom Jones’ passing marks the end of an era, leaving behind a legacy that touched souls worldwide. His ability to create magic within the confines of a wooden box and a cardboard moon was nothing short of remarkable. As he aptly put it in 2013, “We just come and do our little thing and then we pass on.” Jones’ spirit lives on through the enduring melodies that continue to grace the stages of theaters, reminding us of the beauty he brought to the world.
While Tom Jones may have bid us farewell, his legacy lives on through the melodies that shaped the hearts of many. He is survived by his two sons, Michael and Sam, and his indelible impact on the world of theater will forever be cherished. As Broadway veteran Danny Burstein wrote, “Such a good guy. I truly adored him.”