Celebrating the Career of Stage and Screen Star Dean Jones
Jones, for whom Sondheim wrote "Being Alive," famously left the show within weeks of its opening. He was going through difficulties in his personal life during the show's tryouts, and wanted to leave the show. Hal Prince agreed to let him out of his contract if he would just stay until the opening night, April 26, 1970, and give a great performance to launch the show. Jones wound up playing the role for only a month, though he recorded the original cast album.
His replacement, Larry Kert, joined the show May 29, 1970 — so quickly that he was ruled eligible to compete for the Tony Award that year. Kert was nominated, but did not win.
Jones had appeared twice on Broadway earlier in his career: There Was a Little Girl and Under the Yum-Yum Tree, both in 1960. He returned to Broadway once after Company, to star in Into the Light, a musical about the Shroud of Turin, which ran just six performances. Other notable theatre appearances include playing “Cap’n Andy” in the national tour of Harold Prince’s Show Boat, playing opposite Florence Henderson in Bells Are Ringing and touring in the one-man play, St. John in Exile.
The Alabama-born actor is probably best known to the general public for his work on light comedies, many for Disney, including "That Darn Cat!," "The Love Bug," "The Shaggy D.A.," "The Million Dollar Duck," "Snowball Express," "Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo," "Beethoven" and the film versions of the Broadway hits Under the Yum-Yum Tree and Any Wednesday. Several films took him outside the comedy zone, including "Jailhouse Rock" with Elvis Presley, Tom Clancy's "A Clear and Present Danger" and the Western TV series "Stagecoach West."
Jones' emotional performance of "Being Alive" was captured in the D.A. Pennebaker documentary about the making of the original Broadway cast album of Company. Watch it below.