BWW Flashback: Harvey Schmidt Reminisces on His Legendary Career in the Theatre
As BroadwayWorld sadly reported earlier today, legendary composer Harvey Schmidt (The Fantasticks, 110 in the Shade, I Do! I Do!) passed away last night in Texas at 88 years of age. A family only funeral will take place in Texas next week, with a New York memorial to come at a future date.
He attended the University of Texas to study art, but when he met Tom Jones at the University he started to accompany the drama student on the piano. They soon started writing musicals together, the first being a revue. However, after serving in the Army, Schmidt moved to New York and worked as a graphic artist for NBC Television and later as an illustrator for Life, Harper's Bazaar, Sports Illustrated, and Fortune.
Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt met and began their collaboration at the University of Texas at Austin. Their first complete musical, The Fantasticks, opened Off-Broadway at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in May of 1960 and closed forty-two years later in 2002-making it the longest-running musical in the world. A 2006 revival recently concluded a run of almost eleven years. It has been seen all around the US, in dozens of foreign countries and languages, and on both television and film. Their first Broadway musical, 110 in the Shade (an adaptation of N. Richard Nash's play The Rainmaker with a book by Mr. Nash), had a successful run and was later revived in a production starring Audra McDonald. Their two-actor musical I Do! I Do! (based on The Fourposter by Jan De Hartog) ran for a year on Broadway starring Mary Martin and Robert Preston and is frequently produced around the country and the world. (One production in Minneapolis played for twenty-two continuous years with the same two actors in the leading roles.)
For several years Jones and Schmidt worked privately at their theatre workshop, Portfolio, concentrating on small musicals in new and often untried forms. The most notable of these efforts were a pair of original musicals: Celebration, which moved to Broadway in 1969, and Philemon, which won the Outer Critics Circle Award and was broadcast on PBS. Their other works have included Colette Collage, Mirette, Roadside, and Grover's Corners. Jones and Schmidt received an Obie Award and a special 1992 Tony Award for The Fantasticks; in 1999 they were inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame at the Gershwin Theatre, and in 2012 they were inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame.
In late 2017 the York Theatre Company honored legendary musical theatre writing team Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt with the 2017 Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre at the 26th Oscar Hammerstein Award Gala at which the duo appeared together in an evening directed by Richard Jay-Alexander and music direction by Andrew Gerle. BroadwayWorld's Richard Ridge sat down with the duo right before they accepted their award to chat about their legendary career in the theatre. Watch the full conversation below.