Birthday Post: Stephen Schwartz

Stephen SchwartzToday, the great songwriter Stephen Schwartz is 67 years old. At this point, his most successful musical is most likely Wicked. But I have never seen it or even listened to the original cast album. I know him from Godspell, Pippin, and The Magic Show. Actually, the last one isn’t all that good. But the first two are really great. Given that he started his career very early, there isn’t anything terribly interesting about his life. So let’s listen to some of his work.

First is “Prepare Ye (the Way of the Lord)” from Godspell. It is a wonderful example of his ability to create a melody so strong that he can just repeat it over and over again.

Here is the most recent Broadway production of Pippin as they performed at the 2013 Tony Awards. It consists of “Corner of the Sky.” I loved it when I was a kid, but I actually think it is rather weak. The melody is strong, but the transition from verse to chorus drives me crazy. But then it goes into “Magic to Do,” which is a far better song.

After looking around a bit, I can’t find anything from Wicked that I care to share. The truth is that I’m not that fond of Broadway musicals at this point. They have gone in exactly the opposite direction that I had hoped they would go. They just become more involved and complicated — trying to compete against movies. And they have largely become soulless. And I don’t think that people especially like them. It’s just a thing. Musical theater could be something really special. Instead, it is as edifying as a sitcom. But at its best, at least the songs are well crafted.

Happy birthday Stephen Schwartz!

2 thoughts on “Birthday Post: Stephen Schwartz

  1. I’ll have to see the next local production of “Pippin,” I think there’s one coming around soon.

    I quite liked the songs in “Little Shop Of Horrors,” the “South Park” movie and “Hedwig And The Angry Inch.” Maybe because for all of them the songs really came before the stories (of those, only “Hedwig” has some heart, and even then John Mitchell wasn’t going to do it until he knew he had a good songster on board.) The really enduring musicals are the ones with the most entertaining songs, not the most complex/”deep” stories. (Rogers & Hammerstein’s musicals are all but ruined by their stories.)

    I’m looking forward to someday catching “Book Of Mormon”:

    • That’s true. That’s why shows like Pal Joey and Babes in Arms and Singin’ in the Rain tend to work better. Of course, now with Andrew Lloyd Webber, you get full operas, which would be fine if he were a better melody writer. Pippin has quite a good book. It is a well integrated musical.

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