Shirley Jones and her son Patrick Cassidy, both in Sacramento to star in the upcoming Music Circus production of "The Music Man," have worked together in the past.
The first time was not particularly obvious to everyone since Jones was just pregnant with Cassidy while making the acclaimed 1962 film version of "The Music Man" with Robert Preston as Professor Harold Hill and a young Ron Howard as her brother Winthrop.
Jones played the beautiful but stern town librarian Marian Paroo, but this time she's Marian's mother.
Jones' varied career has had enough longevity that she not only has played the ingenue in stories but subsequently played their more mature counterparts. Besides doing it in "Music Man," Jones also did it with "Oklahoma," her first motion picture in 1955, and the film of "Carousel," which she made in 1956.
Sitting in the Music Circus rehearsal hall with Cassidy, Jones exhibited the grace and charm once de rigueur for entertainers. The Pennsylvania-born-and-raised Jones said the secret of her success is that she was born singing.
"I was given a gift. The gift of singing," Jones said. "I was the youngest member of the church choir at age 6."
She also loved theater, and her parents encouraged her with voice lessons and trips to the Pittsburgh Playhouse. She studied acting while in high school. Even so, Jones thought she would become a veterinarian and was headed to college when she stopped off in New York, taking a flier for an open audition.
After hearing the 18-year-old Jones sing, the casting director went across the street to grab Oscar Hammerstein, who was rehearsing with the City Symphony Orchestra. When the legend came into the hall, Jones politely asked him what his name was.
"Yes, I did that and I'll never forget it," Jones said.
Hammerstein then asked her if she knew the score from "Oklahoma!"
"I said, 'I think I know some of the music, but I don't know the words.' And here I am talking to the lyricist," Jones said. Hammerstein wanted Rodgers to hear Jones sing, so they called for him and went across the street where the orchestra was.
"I had never seen an orchestra or heard an orchestra in person, let alone sung in front of one before that," Jones said.
She held the sheet music across her face, shielding her from all the people in the room, and sang "Oh What a Beautiful Morning," "People Will Say We're in Love" and "Oklahoma!"
Rodgers and Hammerstein signed Jones to a personal contract, the only singer they ever did that with.
"I never got to college," Jones said.
"Three weeks later, I was in my first Broadway show, a nurse in "South Pacific," for the last six months of the original Broadway run," she recalled.
Rodgers and Hammerstein subsequently cast her as the female lead in the 1955 film version of "Oklahoma!"
Jones' wholesome, well-scrubbed image worked nicely for her, but turning it upside down won her an Academy Award in 1960 for the film "Elmer Gantry."
"That was an incredible experience for me because my movie career was virtually over had 'Gantry' not happened," Jones said.
"I was considered a musical star and they had this thing, if you were a musical person then you weren't an actress. I didn't quite get that, but that's the way it was," Jones said.
While producer-actor Burt Lancaster wanted Jones to play prostitute Lulu Bains, writer-director Richard Brooks did not. The film was shot in sequence, and Jones' character didn't come in until the middle of the story. But Lancaster had her come to the set every day and watch the work.
"My first day of shooting was the hardest scene I had to do in the film. I'm in the house of prostitution and I talk about Elmer Gantry. I got no direction from Brooks. He just sat there," Jones said.
She was off the next day and thought she'd be fired but received a call from Brooks, "He said, 'Shirley I just saw the work you did yesterday and I owe you an apology. Not only are you going to be great in this film, but I predict you'll win an Academy Award.' From then on we were great friends and I did another film with him," Jones said.
Jones' son Patrick with her first husband, the late actor Jack Cassidy eventually found his way into the family business as well, but he held no illusions about what he was getting into.
"I didn't feel a shadow from either my mother or my father, but I definitely felt it from my two brothers, who were both pop stars," Cassidy said.
Both Shaun and David Cassidy hogged the teen magazine covers in the early 1970s with their boyish good looks.
Patrick took a different route, deciding he wanted to be a true actor. He made his way to New York, where he was soon working and learning his craft.
Cassidy has been seen consistently onstage, in films and on television. He and his mother even made Broadway history together in 2004 in "42nd Street," the first time a mother and son ever starred in a Broadway musical.
"I was 70 years old then and hadn't been on Broadway in forever," Jones said.
"He said, 'Come on, Mom, you can do it' and I thought it would be a wonderful thing if we can do it, and it was great," Jones said.
The upcoming Music Circus production of "Music Man" represents a more personal project for the pair. They're considering a 50th anniversary tour of the show, and this will be something of a tryout.
"It is obviously a valentine," Cassidy said.
"Getting to work with her, getting to do it with costumes and terrific actors and a wonderful director," he said.
"It was a chance to get together."
THE MUSIC MAN
What: The classic musical features the mother-son team of Shirley Jones and Patrick Cassidy. Glenn Casale directs.
Where: Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H St., Sacramento.
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Thursday and Saturday; and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, through Aug. 5.
Information: Call (916) 557-1999, online at www.tickets.com, or in person at the Wells Fargo Pavilion Box Office.