By: Paulanne Simmons
Aside from their obvious vocal and performance skills, what makes Carole Demas and Sarah Rice’s Thank You for Your Love tribute to Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, at the Laurie Beechman Theater, June 27, so special is what Rice called their “deep and personal” connection to the music. Much of that connection is with Jones and Schmidt’s longest running musical, The Fantasticks.
According to Rice, she and Demas have been part of The Fantasticks in six different theaters. Demas said that in 1966, being cast as Louisa “changed my life.” Indeed after two years in that role, Demas went on to play Sandy in in the original Broadway production of Grease, and much more.
Rice claimed Jones taught her how to speak to an audience. Apparently he did a good job, because she not only went on play the original Johanna in Sweeney Todd, and many other roles, she also created an award-winning cabaret show, Sarah Rice Sings Screen Gems.
With musical direction by Joe Goodrich, who often came in on vocals from his seat at the piano, and Maria Banks on the harp, the show is filled with the sweet sentimentality and gentle humor that makes Jones and Schmidt’s songs so endearing. Along with the memories and songs from The Fantasticks (“Soon It’s Gonna Rain,” “You wonder how these things begin…” and the closing number, “Try to Remember”), came a generous helping of selections from other Jones and Schmidt shows: Colette Collage (“Joy” ), 110 in the Shade (“Everything Beautiful Happens at Night” ), I Do! I Do! (“My Cup Runneth Over”)
A good deal of funny, intimate stories were revealed during the evening, like the time when, years after he had ceased acting in the show, Jones had to fill in as the Old Actor, or Demas’s mishaps with a nude scene in Philemon the night her parents were in the audience.
Hal Robinson, whom Rice lovingly remembered as her first El Gallo, made a guest appearance, but the high point of the evening was when Tom Jones himself walked onstage. Self-effacing and funny, Jone told a few jokes and shared a few memories. He ended, however, on a profound note when he said, “Songs change the nature of the pain.”
By the end of the evening many would claim songs take away the pain and fill us with pleasure.
The Laurie Beechman Theater is at 407 W 42nd St, www.westbankcafe.com/laurie-beechman-theatre.