Carmel resident has longtime connection to ‘Fantasticks’

Charles Callery

Charles Callery had a close-up view of “The Fantasticks” taking shape.

Callery, a Carmel resident, was at the University of Texas and met Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones in 1951. Schmidt wrote the music and Jones wrote the lyrics and book. 

The musical is loosely based on the 1894 play “The Romancers.” The play ran off-Broadway for 17,162 performances from 1960 to 2002, making it the world’s longest-running musical.

Carmel Community Players will present “The Fantasticks” from April 22 to May 8 at The Cat, 254 Veterans Way, Carmel.

The plot revolves around two neighbors who pretend to have a feud to get their children to fall in love. Callery said it took a number of years to get the finances for the show.

Callery, 88, saw “The Fantasticks” twice in New York after it opened. Callery, who spent several years acting in community theater, later played one of the fathers in “The Fantasticks” at a Fort Wayne theater.

The show’s classic song is “Try to Remember,” which Callery said Jones composed the music for in one day.

‘When I met Schmidt and Jones, they were working on a revue and the revue turned out to be ‘The Fantasticks,’” Callery said. “They had already been working on it for three years when I met them.”

Word Baker, a University of Texas graduate student, worked on the revue with Schmidt and Jones. Later, Baker would direct “The Fantasticks.”

“Jones was a graphic artist, but he loved composing music,” Callery said. “Jones wrote the script and the lyrics. Word was in charge of making sure the music got played. You had three friends who all came from small Texas towns, and they made contact there.”

Callery heard their work on revue because he was in a show for the school’s drama department. 

Callery said Jones studied under B. Iden Payne, who ended his career teaching at the University of Texas.

“He might have been the greatest Shakespeare director,” Callery said. “People came all over the world to work with him. He was always in demand. He directed John Barrymore in his first major Broadway play. Jones took every class B. Iden Payne taught.”

Callery said Jones was good at what he did but used things from other shows.