Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, lyricist and composer of The Fantasticks, I Do! I Do! and the forthcoming Mirette, appeared live in a Playbill On-Line chat April 24. Playbill On-Line Associate Editor Katia Lundy hosted. Here is an edited transcript.
Since The Fantasticks opened off-Broadway in May, 1960, it has gone on to become the longest running production in American theatre. The movie version, for which Jones/Schmidt did the screenplay, has been directed by Michael Ritchie and will be released this coming year by UA/MGM.
Their first Broadway show, "110 in the Shade" was nominated for a Tony Award and was recently revived to great acclaim by the New York City Opera. "I Do! I Do!," their two character musical which originally starred Mary Martin and Robert Preston in 1966 has been revived off-Broadway at New York's Lambs Theatre. In the starring roles are Karen Ziemba ("Crazy for You") and David Garrison ("Married with Children," "A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine").
I Do! I Do! chronicles the joys and adversities of a marriage which begins at the turn of the century. Fifty years later the couple turns over their house to young newlyweds. Symbolically, all the action in this marital musical odyssey takes place around a fourposter bed at center stage.
The score of "I Do! I Do!" includes several standards including "My Cup Runneth Over with Love," "The Honeymoon Is Over," "Love Isn't Everything," and "Where are the Snows?"Tom Jones/Harvey Schmidt: Hi it's nice to be here, first time we have done this.
Playbill On-Line: This questions comes from SPrestonS
Question: I'm hopefully directing "110" next year. Saw the NYC opera revival and loved it. Any chance that the previously "unreleased" material used by that production is now available?
Harvey Schmidt: It is not officially available. The script wasn't changed much. We have on occasion, when we have friends over, do put in a couple. If you want, you can write a letter to 181 Sullivan St., New York, NY 10021 attention Harvey Schmidt.
Playbill On-Line: Mr. Schmidt, Mr. Jones, hïw long have you been a composing team?
Tom Jones: Well, we began working together in college, I believe in 1950...so it's about 25 years. The reason we say that is because of how long "The Fantasticks" has been running. We are going to start taking off a year each year.
Playbill On-Line: The question comes from Masque 193
Question: How do I get from community theatre on to bigger and better playing theatre?
Tom Jones: Best way is to have a relative who is highly connected.
Harvey Schmidt: Seriously, I don't think I can tell you. Does he want to be an actor or writer or what?
Tom Jones: I would say that the thing to do is to get as much training as possible, get as much live exposure as possible and to make as many contacts as possible. And then go to some metro area that has professional theatre or to set up something where you can be seen by critics or do some other stuff to survive and then who knows, it is all unpredictable.
Playbill On-Line: A question from Spreston
Question: I'm really intrigue with the concept of filming "The Fantasticks." How will it differ stylistically from the stage version and will it still have that trademark intimacy?
Harvey Schmidt: Filming is finished by UA/MGM and we are waiting a release date. I think it does have the intimacy but in a new way. I'm very pleased with the finished product. It uses the metaphors. It is different, the group of actors are set in a more realistic world where two families live in a wide open landscape. Enters a strange carnival head by El Gu Yo, headed by giants, little people... oddball people assist El Gu Yo who takes them through the rite of passage by using cheap carnival tricks, sometimes magic, to show them their own simple lives are not so bad after all.
Playbill On-Line: Why do you think "The Fantasticks" has managed to go on as long as it has on stage?
Harvey Schmidt: We don't really know the answer to that. If we did, we would probably have written more shows like it. A lot of people get different meanings out of it. Small children view it as a fairytale. Sophisticated, learned people read some other subtext into it. It is interesting that the boy and girl who are the two young lovers in it are 16 or 17 in age and kids who come see the show are still the most wonderful audience. It's always fun to see them identify with two lovers in a play. Any age can enjoy it. Anyone coming to NY, bring your kids to see it.
Tom Jones: The "Fantasticks" audience help create it. There's a real interplay between audience and performers. The audience does really help create it. It is different from TV and films which is usually overburdened with machinery and scenery.
Playbill On-Line: SprestonS asks...
Question: How do you like working with Karen Ziemba, now that it has been two occasions? I personally think she is one of the best in the business!
Harvey Schmidt: We love working with her and I wrote her on "I do!, I Do!" and told her we would do a third. Her demeanor is so placid, she always delivers the goods. She pulls out anything from inside, act brilliantly. Both performers in it are fantastic. Hope questioner can see "I Do! I Do!" Fly here from Chicago and see it. David Garrison is multi-talented-talented. Every performance, they grow. This was their idea...really a love match. This has been a growth thing getting richer and better. Absolutely comparable of MM & RP. We just made the cast album the day before yesterday. I have never seen a marriage this good. Just coming together with the same genes. Very exciting.
Playbill On-Line: This q is from Onlyou 74
Question: Who did you choose to play the roles of Luisa and Matt in the movie version?
Tom Jones: The girl Luisa is played by an up and coming actress Jean Louisa Kelly, who just has gotten a good deal of notice recently in Mr. Holland's Opus. She got wonderful notices and is terrific. The boy, Joe McIntyre, we call him Joey, is very talented and fresh and young. He was a superstar at the age of 14. He was the youngest of the "New Kids on the Block." In puberty, he had to be protected by guards. Just a very talented singer and actor. The girls wait outside for him. He has 11 siblings, kept him pretty unaffected.
Playbill On-Line: From Rose of R
Question: When will the film of "The Fantasticks" come out?
Tom Jones: We don't know. The studio that made it has to be sold this year. At the moment, their interest is in getting out the most big films like "Birdcage." Our film didn't cost a lot to make, but still compared to other films, ours was brought in at $20 million. It is not a big priority right now. Latest is before the year is out.
Harvey Schmidt: It is also, I would have to say, a strange film, a unique film. They are uncertain how to market it. They don't know if it is for young people or sophisticated people. Like Fellini and old MGM musicals.
Playbill On-Line: This comes from LBC981
Question: I'm singing "Simple Little Things" from your "110 in the Shade" at an upcoming audition. do you have any suggestions as to how I should perform it -- acting, voice quality/style etc?
Harvey Schmidt: I would say to do it as simple and heartfelt as possible. It can easily be done as real and simple as possible. It should seem like time has stopped as simply as possible. The title says it all "Simple Little Things."
Tom Jones: There are a number of shows where we design songs and in "110" it is back to back with a song called "Millicent" which is a very long and elaborate song. This songs ends with him singing "Millicent," no simple little things.
Playbill On-Line: Mr. Schmidt, I understand that you can't read music and yet you manage to compose all the wonderful music for your shows. How does that work? How can you compose without knowing how to read music?
Harvey Schmidt: I have always, as long as I can remember, played piano by ear. Curiously, my mother was a piano teacher and tried to teach me but I was a wild child and didn't want to know. The notes didn't have any enjoyment to me. I never thought I could have any career in music. I drew, I was an art major in college and the Drama dept. needed a pianist. I learned Broadway songs and taught myself. It was a wonderful time learning these songs. When I left college, I was able to play. So, that's where I met Tom. When I came to NY, I started working with people who were skilled. You can find anyone in NY. I found various people to write it down for me. They have to bend over backwards now with tape recorders and computers. It has gotten more advance, I can go into a studio and play it and someone is there recording it. Broadway composers have their own computers. I am afraid of it. It is a dazzling new world.
Playbill On-Line: From SprestonS
Question: Any chance that there will be a new piece of theater coming from you two in the future?
Harvey Schmidt: We are now at our third summer of working on it. It is called "Mirette." Based on the children's book "Mirette on the High Wire." then we have also acquired the rights to continue working on the rights based on "Out Town." We hope to have a production in '97 because that will be Wilder's 100th year and we arranged for a production next year.
Tom Jones: We also have a film, called "El Norte" about a brother and sister in Guatemala whose parents are killed by military and who make their way across Mexico and into LA. Very exciting possibility. Can be exciting yet grim.
Playbill On-Line: This Q's from Brekekeke
Question: What are your favorite Broadway shows?
Tom Jones: "110 in the Shade," "I Do!, I Do!"...just off the top of my head. Actually, "Guys and Dolls" and the original "Candide." There are lots and lots that I like a lot. those particularly
Harvey Schmidt: "Gypsy" is my favorite Broadway musical. Richard Rodgers, my favorite has as much acclaim, but not enough. He writes in one octave. Very singable, like "King and I." My goal is to write that way. I love simplicity. I think It makes the grand statement. I admire Bernstein, very rarefied, very brilliant. More magical in Rodgers. I Adore all his pieces.
Playbill On-Line: Sptitzner asks
Question: What did you think of the Hallmark Hall of Fame TV version of the "Fantasticks?"
Tom Jones: It was very successful critically in terms of audience appeal. After it was shown, "The Fantasticks" was sold out for the next six years. It was reduced to 50 minutes. Many things taken out were illusion.
Harvey Schmidt: It was considerably less than what "The Fantasticks" could be. It introduced all the country to "Fantasticks" so it helped our business here. Fathers were Bert Lahr and Stanley Holloway. JD played the boy and Susan Watson played the girl. Herb Ross went on to become famous. George Shaffer directed.
Playbill On-Line: Well, we are just about out of time. Thank you Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt for stopping by Playbill On-Line. Any closing comments?
Harvey Schmidt: Despite what I said about computers, I might have to get one.
Tom Jones: Do we now get to see the dirty pictures?
Playbill On-Line: Uh hummm, I told them if they came online, I would show them dirty pictures. I lied!! Remember folks, "I Do! I Do!" ticket are available by phone from Telecharge at 212-239-6200. The Lambs Theatre's Box Office number is 212-997-1780 located at 130 West 44th Street, NYC.
Playbill On-Line: Thank you and good night.