Stephen Schwartz - Writer

Composer and lyricist. Nationality: American. Born: Stephen Michael Schwartz, New York City, 6 March 1948. Education: Studied piano and composition at Julliard School of Music while still in high school; Carnegie Mellon University, B.F.A. in drama, 1968. Career: Worked briefly as a producer for RCA Records, 1968; composer of music and lyrics for theatre, since 1969, and for film, since 1973; wrote title song for the Broadway play Butterflies Are Free , 1969; first major commercial and critical success with Off Broadway musical Godspell , 1972; recorded albums Stephen Michael Schwartz , RCA, 1974, Godspell , Jay 1997, and Reluctant Pilgrim , Midder, 1997; appeared on numerous albums, from 1974. Awards: Academy Awards for Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score (with Allen Menken), and Best Music, Song ("Colors of the Wind"; with Menken), Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song-Motion Picture ( "Colors of the Wind"; with Menken), and Grammy Award for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture ("Colors of the Wind"; with Menken), for Pocahontas , 1996; Academy Award for Best Music, Song ("When You Believe"), 1999, and ASCAP Film and Television Music Award for Most Performed Songs from Motion Pictures ("When You Believe"; with Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds), 2000, for The Prince of Egypt. Agent: Gorfaine & Schwartz Agency, 13245 Riverside, Suite 405, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423, U.S.A.

Films as Composer/Lyricist:


Godspell (Greene)


Pippin (Fosse—for TV)


Working (Marshall—for TV) (with others)


Echoes (Seidelman) (with Gerard Bernard Cohen); The Magic Show (Campbell—for TV)


Pocahontas (Gabriel and Goldberg) (lyrics with Alan Menken)


The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Trousdale and Wise) (lyrics with Alan Menken)


The Prince of Egypt (Chapman, Hickner, and Wells) (songs only)


Geppetto (Moore—for TV)

Other Films:


Sweet Hostage (Philips—for TV) (singer)


By SCHWARTZ: articles—

"Carrying the Tunes," interview in People Weekly , 24 July 1995.

"It's An Art: Reflections on a Life in Song," an interview with Jem Aswad, "ASCAP Film and TV Legends," , May 2000.

On SCHWARTZ: articles—

"Songwriter Schwartz Shifts Gears," in Billboard , 28 June 1997.

" Reluctant Pilgrim " (review), in People Weekly , 16 February 1998.

* * *

The steady demise of the original American Broadway musical, combined with the rather surprising rise in mass popularity of the Broadway- style animated movie musical, revived the careers of a select number of Broadway composers and lyricists in the last decade of the 20th century. One of the most welcome career revivals occasioned by this animation renaissance was that of composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz. Born in 1948 in New York City, before the age of 25 Schwartz had composed the songs for Godspell and Pippin , two popular stage hits which also became two of the last late Broadway properties to enter the standard musical theater repertory.

Schwartz studied piano and composition at the Julliard School of Music while still in high school, and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a B.F.A. in Drama. While still in college the multi-talented Schwartz did summer stock, playing the multiple roles of director, musical director, and choreographer. Upon graduation he worked as a producer for RCA Victor Records, and shortly thereafter commenced a career in Broadway theater.

Schwartz's first Broadway credit was the title song for the 1969 comedy, Butterflies Are Free , but his greatest success came in 1971, when he composed the songs for the Off-Broadway rock musical Godspell , a modern version of the story of Christ as enacted by 1960s-style hippies. The score included a popular hit, "Day by Day," and that same year Schwartz was selected to contribute the English lyrics to Leonard Bernstein's controversial concert work, "Mass," which opened at the Kennedy Center in Washington. In 1973 Godspell was filmed on location in New York City, but failed to gain the acclaim or commercial success it had earned on stage.

In 1972 Schwartz had his second major success (and his first on Broadway) with the big musical, Pippin , a contemporary and fanciful retelling of the story of the son of Charlemagne, and directed by Bob Fosse. After these two theatrical successes the young composer's career flagged, a falling off at least partially due to the confused state of live Broadway theater from the 1970s on. Schwartz composed several songs for a review showcasing magician Doug Henning, The Magic Show , in 1974, and the score for a 1976 musical entitled The Baker's Wife. Though the latter closed before reaching Broadway, its original cast album achieved cult status and led to several revivals, including one by Trevor Nunn in London in 1988. In 1986 Schwartz provided the lyrics for composer Charles Strouse's music for Rags which, after an unsuccessful Broadway run, went on to a number of well-received revival productions. On his long creative gap between the Pippin in 1972 and Rags in 1986, Schwartz commented in an ASCAP interview: "Basically I just burned out and stopped working. I hid out—I don't know any other way to put it."

Schwartz's last Broadway project of the 1970s was his unusual 1978 musical adaptation of Studs Terkel's book, Working. He both adapted and directed, but contributed only four songs to a pastiche score featuring numbers by a variety of contemporary pop and theater songwriters (including James Taylor and Dorothy Rodgers). Working was filmed for public television's "American Playhouse" series in 1982, and a revised version (featuring new material) eventually opened at the Signature Theater in Washington, D.C. Pippin was also filmed for television in 1981, directed by Fosse and starring William Katt, Martha Ray, and Chita Rivera. The Magic Show was filmed for TV in 1983, with Henning and Didi Conn.

Rags was Schwartz's last contribution to the increasingly risky and British (i.e., Andrew Lloyd Webber) dominated Broadway scene. With the death of lyricist Howard Ashman, Schwartz joined forces with Alan Menken and the Walt Disney Studio. The team of Menken and Ashman had of course created the popular Off-Broadway success, The Little Shop of Horrors , and went on to much greater fame (and fortune) with their work for the Disney animated musicals, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. When Ashman died of AIDS in 1991, Schwartz collaborated on songs for the 1994 Disney film Life with Mikey with Alan Menken (though he was not credited). The films that placed Schwartz squarely back in the public eye, if only for his lyrics, were Pocahontas in 1995 and The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1996. Both scores were nominated for Academy Awards, and Schwartz shared an Oscar with composer Menken for Best Song for "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas. Following these two career-reviving scores Schwartz was assigned to write both the music and lyrics for the big DreamWorks-SKG animated musical spectacle Prince of Egypt in 1998. His song, "When You Believe," earned another Oscar in 1999, and Schwartz also shared a nomination for Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy with orchestral score composer, Hans Zimmer. Schwartz returned to Disney in 2000 to compose the songs for a live action television version of Disney's classic Pinocchio , now entitled Geppetto. The revival of Schwartz's career also resulted in his first solo album, Reluctant Pilgrim , and in his joining forces with Disney and ASCAP to oversee their Musical Theater Workshop.

When Broadway music, like all American popular music, changed radically with the extreme cultural and social shifts of the 1960s, Schwartz was one of the few theater composers willing and able to change with it, and to make the transition with any degree of artistic and commercial success. Schwartz's transition from Broadway to animated movie musicals is certainly a welcome one. Songs like "Day by Day" (from Godspell ) and "Corner of the World" (from Pippin ) are among the best the late-period American musical theater has to offer, and this tradition of quality has now extended into 2000 with his Schwartz's score for Geppetto. Schwartz's songs have always been noted for their witty, well-crafted lyrics, and for their alternatingly exhilarating and moving music. Schwartz's score for Geppetto ranges from droll operatic parodies and operetta-like ensembles to a lyrical and potentially commercial ballad, "Since I Gave My Heart Away," this latter one of the songwriter's best tunes since "Corner of the World."

—Ross Care

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