Lyricist Sheldon Harnick, 98 as of final Saturday, and songstress Marilyn Maye, who marked her 94th birthday 20 days earlier, have been first in line to obtain the annual Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Songbook Affiliation. (In 2019 and 2018, respectively.) Now, the four-year-old group has determined to honor a veritable spring hen, Stephen Schwartz, who’s primarily a words-and-music man.
“You’d think that someone with his body of work would be in his 90s, but he’s just 74,” factors out ASA’s government director Carolyn Montgomery. “Stephen has had such a long career. He got his start fairly young and was successful very young.” Particularly, Godspell in 1971 and Pippin in 1972, when Schwartz was not but midway by his 20s. “He has had five decades’ worth of work,” Montgomery says.
ASA makes it their mission to protect and promote the kind of music Schwartz has created for stage and display. “The American Songbook is still being written,” insists Montgomery. “It’s not just written by five long-gone guys from the Lower East Side of New York—not just Irving Berlin or Harold Arlen or Cole Porter. It’s also Carole King or Leonard Cohen. These are songs that have been recorded over and over by various artists, and they have become American standards.”
Going into underserved public faculties with this message is the main goal of ASA, she says. “We’re not trying to create little performers. That’s not our job. There are plenty in New York who do that. We are using this music to expand these kids’ scope. We’re creating thinkers.”
Schwartz, who sealed the ASA deal pre-pandemic and solely now could be getting round to sitting nonetheless for a salute Could 9 at Merkin Corridor at Kaufman Music Heart, is kind of attuned to the ASA purpose.
“Their primary purpose is education, and I’m sorta associated with that as well,” he contends. “I know they’re looking to expand their mission in public schools in Chicago and L.A. If participating in this gala is helpful to that mission, then I’ll do it—plus, being considered part of the American Songbook is clearly an honor, and I’m glad to be considered as having contributed to that.”
By no means thoughts that this will probably be—actually—his 17th Lifetime Achievement Award. “I did not realize that,” he admits, however then, “I have to be honest: I haven’t been keeping count. It’s nice to know, of course, but these awards are supporting the organizations that give them out. This essentially is a fund-raiser for the American Songbook Association, and I’m happy to participate in that.”
Not that Schwartz is shy of awards. He has three Academy Awards—two for Finest Rating and Finest Music (“Colors of the Wind”) for Pocahontas and one for Finest Music (“When You Believe”) for The Prince of Egypt), 4 Grammys, 4 Drama Desk Awards, two Broadcast Movie Critics Awards, a Golden Globe, a self-described tiny handful of tennis trophies” and distinguished spots on the Hollywood Stroll of Fame, the Songwriters Corridor of Fame and the Theater Corridor of Fame.
Nicely, maybe he’s a bit shy of awards. Save for an Isabelle Stevenson honor for his mentoring and humanitarianism, the person who has created massively lengthy runs on Broadway has by no means received a Tony—and he has been nominated six occasions: Pippin, Godspell, Working (two noms), Rags and Depraved.
That’s proper, Depraved. In 2004, Depraved went three for 10 on the Tonys, successful for costumes, scenic design, and greatest actress (Idina Menzel), however dropping Finest Musical to Avenue Q—as lately as Tuesday, there was a Fb merchandise lamenting the choice.
“Can you believe that 20 years later that’s still controversial?” Schwartz says in semi-disbelief. Lengthy after Avenue Q closed, Depraved remains to be chug-a-lugging on the Gershwin on Broadway. Tonight, it’s going to give its 7,094th efficiency. “I guess we kinda had the last laugh. In fact, if I remember correctly, that list includes Gypsy and Follies and West Side Story. I’m happy to be in that company.”
Schikaneder is the present that now has his consideration. “I did it in Vienna, in German, in 2016, with Sir Trevor Nunn directing. I’m going to London at the end of the month to work with Trevor on it.” (Don’t fear. They’ve mounted the title. For English-speaking consumption, it’s Making Magic.) He’s additionally at work on a musical primarily based on the documentary The Queen of Versailles, in regards to the Florida girl who constructed largest non-public dwelling in America
“After that, my focus will be on getting things prepared for the Wicked movie—or, more accurately, the Wicked movies.” Certainly, one thing Depraved this manner is coming—in two elements.
The film model of the musical, starring Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba and Ariana Grande as Glinda—roles that have been originated on Broadway by Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth (and, earlier than that, on display by Margaret Hamilton and Billie Burke in The Wizard of Oz)—will probably be launched in installments a yr aside, one at Christmas of 2024, the opposite at Christmas of 2025.
“We’re hoping to start taking pictures Depraved earlier than the top of the yr, however there’s a number of preparation to be performed. Once we have been adapting it, we stored making an attempt to make it one film, however we stored discovering we have been having to chop issues that we didn’t need to reduce. There have been some areas we wished to delve into within the film that we weren’t capable of do, for varied causes, within the present.
“Additionally, to be sincere, we discovered it tough to get previous ‘Defying Gravity’ with out an intermission. I don’t suppose it’s a spoiler to say it ends Half One. We even mentioned doing the movie with an old style intermission, like Gone with the Wind and Lawrence of Arabia and films again then. However finally, as we have been engaged on it, it simply got here to look we had materials for 2 motion pictures.
“We’ve had a pretty strict rule to ourselves that we don’t want it to feel padded at all. There is nothing we are adding or exploring more. It has to be ‘additives.’ That’s a word our producer, Marc Platt, has been putting in front of us. We finally came to the conclusion that the story would be best told as two movies. I think it is exciting because it has never been done before.”
(Really, it has been performed earlier than. Sixty years in the past, writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz turned in Cleopatra and Caesar and Cleopatra and Marc Antony, however Fox whittled them into one film.)
Heretofore, Schwartz’s display work has been completely as a lyricist for composer Alan Menken. Their subsequent collaboration continues the happily-ever-aftering of their 2007 fairytale, Enchanted. The sequel is known as Disenchanted, and the unique 4 leads—Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, Idina Menzel, and James Marsden—all reprise their characters, solely older and within the suburbs.
“I hope it’ll be as much fun as the first one. It happened during the pandemic, which was—to be frank—good for me because I was having difficulty with self-motivation. Having the deadlines and the responsibility to work on those songs kept me writing, which I was happy about. I think there are six songs. It’s all filmed. I don’t know if it’s going to be a theatrical release or a Disney+ or some kind of combination, but I’m pretty sure the premiere is planned around the holidays.”
Enchanted has the excellence of being one in every of two movies (Footloose is the opposite) to be Oscar-nominated 3 times for Finest Music. Schwartz didn’t know that stat, however he does keep in mind the winner. “A wonderful song won, and we kinda knew it would—‘Falling Slowly’ from the movie Once. I have to say that’s an awfully good song, so I didn’t mind losing the award to it.”
Given Disney’s latest development of turning its animated options into stay motion remakes, Schwartz and Menken could discover themselves again at work on The Hunchback at Notre Dame. “I keep hearing something in the works about it,” Schwartz relays. “I know there are versions of the stage production we did at the Paper Mill Playhouse coming up in Vienna and Japan. We’re not rewriting it anymore. The one that is being presented around the world, pretty successfully, we’re leaving as is.”
Some Schwartz exhibits have been mortally injured en path to Broadway due to a short-circuiting producer or director—The Baker’s Spouse closed out of city on the Kennedy Heart, and Rags (which he wrote with Charles Strouse) solely eked out 4 performances on Broadway—however appreciable work has continued on them after their premature demises, he’s completely satisfied to report.
In March, Schwartz was happy to see a radically revised model of The Baker’s Spouse on 42nd Road. “Basically, it was a showcase cast with limited rehearsal, but they did a wonderful job. I thought Rob Schneider just did a lovely, lovely job, and I felt really good about the show.”
He’s having fun with comparable vibes about Rags. “Since the Paper Mill production, it was further reworked and is in quite good shape now. Maybe at some point there’ll be a production, whether in English or Yiddish or half-and-half. I feel quite good about where the show has wound up now.”
Amid hits, misses and repairs, Stephen Schwartz retains on filling the American Songbook.