Harvey Schmidt, Composer of Longest-Running Musical in History, Dies at 88

Photofest
Harvey Schmidt

Schmidt famously teamed up with lyricist, director and storywriter Tom Jones on 'The Fantasticks,' which opened off-Broadway in May 1960 and closed in 2002.

Harvey Schmidt, the composer of The Fantasticks, the longest-running musical in history, has died. He was 88. His death on Wednesday was confirmed by Dan Demello, a publicist for the off-Broadway show.

Schmidt famously teamed up with lyricist, director and storywriter Tom Jones on The Fantasticks, which opened off-Broadway in May 1960 and closed in 2002. It returned in a 2006 revival that ran for 11 years.

Jerry Orbach landed his first major New York stage role in the original off-Broadway cast of the whimsical musical allegory, while other notable actors who appeared during the run or in touring productions included Liza Minnelli, Elliott Gould, F. Murray Abraham, Glenn Close and Kristin Chenoweth. The show yielded such standards as "Try to Remember," "I Can See It" and "Soon It's Gonna Rain."

The film adaptation of The Fantasticks, directed by Michael Ritchie and starring Jean Louisa Kelly, Joe McIntyre, Joel Grey, Brad Sullivan, Barnard Hughes and Jonathon Morris, saw a limited release in 2000 after re-editing from Francis Ford Coppola.

Schmidt and Jones also collaborated on the Broadway shows 110 in the Shade, an adaptation of N. Richard Nash's The Rainmaker, which was Schmidt's first show on Broadway; and I Do! I Do!, adapted from Jan de Hartog's The Fourposter. Schmidt and Jones' last collaboration on Broadway was 1969's Celebration, which ran for 109 performances.

110 in the Shade was revived on Broadway in 2007 in a Tony-nominated production that starred Audra McDonald alongside her future husband Will Swenson, as well as Steve Kazee and John Cullum.

Schmidt also occasionally forayed into writing for Hollywood, composing scores for the 1964 short film A Texas Romance, 1909 and the 1972 feature Bad Company.

Jones, who grew up in Texas as the son of a Methodist minister, met Schmidt at the University of Texas, Austin, where both men were members of the campus' "Curtain Club." After graduation, the pair shared an apartment in New York City in 1955 and began collaborating professionally in 1956 on a play called Joy Comes to Dead Horse. In 1959, a mutual friend offered them the opportunity to stage the show at Barnard College's summer theater program if it could be cut to one act. At that point the pair altered the play and renamed it The Fantasticks, borrowing elements from Edmond Rostand's 19th-century burlesque, Les Romanesques.

Both Schmidt and Jones were inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1998 and received a 1992 special Tony Award for The Fantasticks. In 2012, the pair also was inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame.