Fynsworth Alley: Tom Jones (Part One)

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

Tom JonesTom Jones is the book-and-lyrics half of the team that created The Fantasticks, 110 in the Shade, I Do! I Do!, Celebration, Philemon, Colette Collage, and more.

DL: Let’s start right at the beginning. Before you met Harvey Schmidt, what were you doing? How did you guys get to know each other?

TJ: We were both students at the University of Texas. I was studying drama, studying to be a director, not a writer. Harvey was studying to be a commercial artist, as he eventually became very successfully, as I’m sure you must know. I tried to make as much money as I could by picking up directing jobs, directing the melodrama at the local civic theatre, so forth and so on. But there was the annual college musical, put on by the fraternity connected with the journalism department to raise money. They paid the director, and they paid a very modest fee for the book and score. I got the job directing it, and the scripts that I got and the songs that were sent to me were so terrible that I contacted Harvey, whom I knew through a group called the Curtain Club, and I said, “Look, would you like to write an original musical with me? We’ll write it in three weeks or so, and it will be put on a month after that.” He said yes, and we did.

DL: What was it about Harvey that he was the one who sprang to mind?

TJ: Well, he played the piano. And he also composed. The organization we belonged to called the Curtain Club had just done a revue called Hipsy-Boo! (That’s Hipsy-hyphen-boo-exlamation point.) in which some girls in little pants and mesh stockings and bras came out on a runway… actually, it was a revue of American popular theatre music from 1900 to 1950, it took place in 1950. Harvey arranged music from all of these different periods of time, and played it. And he also wrote an original piece of music called “Hipsy-Boo!” – a wonderful, terrific, sensational, sleazy piece of music. I loved it so much. I was connected to the show writing and directing the comedy material involved. That’s how I met him and knew his talents as a composer, really just through that one song. Continue reading

Fynsworth Alley: Karen Morrow

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

Karen MorrowKaren Morrow is perhaps best known as “one of the most flop-prone performers of recent musical-theatre history,” (according to Ken Mandelbaum), having appeared in I Had A Ball, The Grass Harp, I’m Solomon, A Joyful Noise, and The Selling of the President on Broadway. Since then, she has gone on to success as a television star and cabaret performer. Additionally, Karen is a great teacher of performance, currently on the faculty of UCLA’s Musical Theatre program. Karen Morrow appears on the Fynsworth Alley CDs A Hollywood Christmas, Lost in Boston IV, and The Grass Harp.

DL: How did you get your start in show business?

KM: I went to Milwaukee when I graduated from college to teach school. I had five roommates because I was poor – they certainly didn’t pay much to teach school. I would brag all the time about how I could sing and how I had played all the leads in school. There was an audition at the Equity theatre in town for Brigadoon, so my roommates said, “Okay, smarty, if you’re so good, go over there and audition.” I went “Oh my God…” and went over there an auditioned and got the job! I was in the chorus at the Fred Miller theatre in Milwaukee. Then right from there, I did just about everything in town there was to do. There was a revue in a restaurant called “Highlights of Musical Comedy,” and I was in the original group for that. Then I starred in the big show in Milwaukee with the symphony, and then I went to New York and that was it.

DL: So you gave up teaching?

KM: Oh gosh yes! It was grade school – I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! It was just something to make a living. As I do in my act, there’s a whole song Billy Barnes wrote for me… I have this voice and I didn’t know what to do with it. It never occurred to me that I might be able to earn a living using my voice. And suddenly, there I was earning a living. Continue reading

Fynsworth Alley: 10 Questions with Harvey Schmidt

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

10 Questions with Harvey Schmidt

What was your involvement in the film version of The Fantasticks?

After years of turning down offers, of waiting and hoping that some day, some film director would come our way with a vision that we might approve on just how to turn what is very much a stage piece into film, Michael Ritchie came along and presented us with such a proposal. So Tom and I were engaged to work on the screenplay and to also be on call for whenever Michael wanted us around, whether it be recording sessions, location shooting in Arizona, or final editing sessions in Los Angeles and New York.

Is there any truth to the rumored Broadway revival of I Do! I Do! with Kathie Lee Gifford?

Up till now I have only heard the same rumors that everyone else seems to have heard. Having long been a fan of hers, I think she could be a perfect “Agnes” in this show, so I would be delighted if the rumors should turn out to be true. Continue reading