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

by Sophia Chen
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Tom Jones

Tom Jones, the renowned lyricist, writer, and director of “The Fantasticks,” known for being the longest-running musical in history, has passed away at the age of 95.

Jones’s death occurred on Friday at his residence in Sharon, Connecticut. The information was confirmed by Dan Shaheen, one of the co-producers of “The Fantasticks,” who had been collaborating with Jones since the 1980s. The reason for his death was cited as cancer.

Alongside composer Harvey Schmidt, Jones was responsible for “The Fantasticks” and other Broadway hits such as “110 in the Shade” and “I Do! I Do!” He was honored with induction into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1998.

“The Fantasticks,” which is adapted from a lesser-known play by Edmond Rostand, may not seem like an obvious success. Its set is simplistic, consisting of only a platform, poles, a curtain, and a wooden box. The story is a playful rendition of “Romeo and Juliet,” involving two young lovers brought together in secrecy by their fathers, as well as various peculiar characters.

Many actors have participated in the show since it first opened in 1960. Some notable names include Jerry Orbach, Rita Gardner, Ricardo Montalban, Kristin Chenoweth, and “Frozen” star Santino Fontana. The musical received Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre in 1991.

Jones once described the timeless quality of the production, stating, “We just come and do our little thing and then we pass on.”

After running for 42 years at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village, the show closed in 2002 after 17,162 performances. Its closure was influenced by the aftermath of 9/11 and changing public tastes. The musical later found a new home at The Theater Center, continuing until its closure in 2017 after a record 21,552 performances.

Jones expressed his awe and gratitude for the show’s success, though he admitted to having difficulty comprehending it fully.

The musical is famous for several songs, with “Try To Remember” being the most recognized. Artists like Ed Ames, Harry Belafonte, Barbra Streisand, and Placido Domingo have recorded it.

Despite initial reviews that were lukewarm, the show’s lasting power was undeniable. Critical reception ranged from mixed to dismissive, but this did not hinder its success.

Jones also worked with Schmidt on other Broadway projects, including “110 in the Shade” and “I Do! I Do!,” both of which earned Tony nominations for best composer and lyricist.

He leaves behind two sons, Michael and Sam. Tributes have poured in, with Broadway veteran Danny Burstein expressing his affection for Jones on social media.

Mark Kennedy, the author of the original report, can be reached through his Twitter handle at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Tom Jones

What was Tom Jones known for?

Tom Jones was known for being the lyricist, writer, and director of “The Fantasticks,” the longest-running musical in history. He also worked on Broadway hits such as “110 in the Shade” and “I Do! I Do!” and was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

Who collaborated with Tom Jones on “The Fantasticks”?

Tom Jones collaborated with composer Harvey Schmidt on “The Fantasticks” as well as other Broadway shows including “110 in the Shade” and “I Do! I Do!”

How many performances did “The Fantasticks” have?

“The Fantasticks” had a total of 21,552 performances, making it the longest-running production of any kind in the history of American theater.

Where did “The Fantasticks” originally perform, and where did it move to?

“The Fantasticks” originally performed at the 153-seat Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village for nearly 42 years. In 2006, it found a new home in The Snapple Theater Center, later The Theater Center, an off-Broadway complex in Times Square.

What were some of the most recognized songs from “The Fantasticks”?

Some of the most recognized songs from “The Fantasticks” include “Try To Remember,” “Soon It’s Gonna Rain,” and “They Were You.”

Who survives Tom Jones?

Tom Jones is survived by two sons, Michael and Sam.

When and where did Tom Jones die?

Tom Jones died on Friday at his home in Sharon, Connecticut. The cause of his death was cancer.

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