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Steve Schwartz

Steve Schwartz

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A gifted composer and craftsmanlike lyricist, Stephen Schwartz was a child prodigy who began his musical studies in earnest at Juilliard while still in high school. While attending Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University), he began writing what was eventually to become "Pippin." Graduating college at age 20, he returned to his native New York and found employment as an artist and repertoire agent at RCA Records. His first stage success came with the title song for the Broadway play "Butterflies Are Free" (1969). A college friend, actor and director Charles Haid, asked Schwartz to work on a stage show based on the New Testament. Schwartz provided a brand-new score (which included the infectious hit "Day by Day") for "Godspell." The show ran for over 1,000 performances off-Broadway before moving to a successful run on Broadway during the 1976-77 season.In 1971, Schwartz was selected to provide the lyrics for Leonard Bernstein's "Mass," the production that inaugurated the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The following year, "Godspell" was adapted as a feature and "Pippin" was produced on Broadway. On the latter, Schwartz clashed with director-choreographer Bob Fosse and found...

A gifted composer and craftsmanlike lyricist, Stephen Schwartz was a child prodigy who began his musical studies in earnest at Juilliard while still in high school. While attending Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University), he began writing what was eventually to become "Pippin." Graduating college at age 20, he returned to his native New York and found employment as an artist and repertoire agent at RCA Records. His first stage success came with the title song for the Broadway play "Butterflies Are Free" (1969). A college friend, actor and director Charles Haid, asked Schwartz to work on a stage show based on the New Testament. Schwartz provided a brand-new score (which included the infectious hit "Day by Day") for "Godspell." The show ran for over 1,000 performances off-Broadway before moving to a successful run on Broadway during the 1976-77 season.

In 1971, Schwartz was selected to provide the lyrics for Leonard Bernstein's "Mass," the production that inaugurated the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The following year, "Godspell" was adapted as a feature and "Pippin" was produced on Broadway. On the latter, Schwartz clashed with director-choreographer Bob Fosse and found himself banned from the theater during the show's rehearsals. Despite the backstage conflicts, audiences embraced "Pippin" (including its bouncy score) and it ran for well over 1,000 performances. When "The Magic Show" opened in 1974, it too found an audience, partly due to Doug Henning's illusions around which the show was built. Despite having three shows running simultaneously, Schwartz found himself dismissed by critics who considered his work pleasant but forgettable. His 1976 attempt to musicalize the feature "The Baker's Wife" was ill-fated nevertheless it has produced a bona fide cabaret standard "Meadowlark" that has been recorded by a variety of artists from Patti LuPone (who introduced it) to Betty Buckley to Sarah Brightman. Schwartz adapted, contributed to the score and directed "Working" (1978). Based on Studs Terkel's oral history, "Working" was admired but failed to find an audience, overshadowed by "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "On the Twentieth Century." After the failure of "Working," the songwriter voluntarily retired from Broadway.

Schwartz adapted and co-directed "Working" for PBS' "American Playhouse" in 1981. He wrote the children's musical "The Trip" (1983) and provide the lyrics for the short-lived musical "Rags" (1986), notably for marking the musical theater debut of opera diva Teresa Stratas. He returned to the Bible for inspiration for "Children of Eden" (1991), based on the Book of Genesis. The show was produced in London where it met with controversy for its color-blind casting. Schwartz's career was boosted when he partnered with composer Alan Menken on Disney's animated "Pocahontas" (1995). The score was one of the film's strongest features and the song "Colors of the Wind" received both a Grammy and an Oscar. The pair teamed again for 1996's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," for which Schwartz utilized the original novel and the Latin Mass as sources.

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