10 Little-Known Facts about Stephen Schwartz


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10 Little-Known Facts about Stephen Schwartz

Learn more in the first authorized career biography:

Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked.


1) Leonard Bernstein’s sister, Shirley, served as Stephen Schwartz’s agent from 1969 through her death in 1998. She believed in his talent from the moment she heard the Carnegie Mellon University graduate play some of his songs. He was twenty-years-old.
2) Shirley Bernstein helped him get his first Broadway credit—the title song for the play Butterflies Are Free—as well as attract the attention of producers Edgar Lansbury and Joe Beruh who asked Schwartz to write the score for Godspell. Several months before the Godspell contract came in and the show became a giant hit, the agency that Bernstein worked for urged her to drop “the kid.” She quit that agency and formed her own, taking Schwartz with her. A wise choice.
3) Schwartz owes some of his inspiration for writing for Broadway to his boyhood next-door-neighbor George Kleinsinger who was completing a Broadway show called Shinbone Alley with Joe Darion and Mel Brooks.
4) Schwartz is one of the few musical songwriters for stage and film who has enjoyed an award-winning career as both a composer-lyricist and just as a lyricist. He also produces most of his own cast albums, and works closely with book writers on the story structure of each show.

5) In July 2008, Wicked passed Pippin and The Magic Show in number of continuous performances on Broadway. All three have run over 1900 performances, making Stephen Schwartz the only songwriter in Broadway history with three shows that have reached this milestone.

6) Schwartz is an avid puzzle-solver. Brainteasers, Scrabble® and Boggle,® crosswords and Sudoku are mental exercise gyms for a songwriter whose profession involves solving storytelling riddles, addressing intricate rhyme schemes, and carefully connecting songs to shows.
7) Schwartz is somewhat of a tennis fanatic. He plays the game often and has won trophies in local tournaments.
8) Schwartz was Broadway’s Wunderkind while his first Broadway shows, Pippin and The Magic Show, thrived in the early to mid 1970s. Godspell played continuously off-Broadway for more than 2000 performances. Then he hit a losing streak with The Baker’s Wife, Working, Rags, and finally Children of Eden on London’s West End. In the fall of 1991, he commuted from Connecticut into Greenwich Village to attend graduate school classes in psychology at New York University with the intention of becoming a therapist. Shortly thereafter Disney called and he launched into film work, eventually winning three Academy Awards.
9) Schwartz decided to make a musical of Studs Terkel’s interview book Working after reading about it in a Book-of-the-Month Club flyer. On opening night for the show in New York in 1978 he told his wife, “This is going to change our lives in one way or the other. If this works, that will be one path, and if it doesn’t work, I’m through.” Working closed in 25 days and Schwartz retired at age thirty for three years.

10) Stephen and Carole Schwartz believed in allowing their children Scott and Jessica to “follow their bliss” and did not encourage or discourage them to work in the arts. Still, Jessica became school art teacher and Scott Schwartz chose a career as a stage director. For several years Scott avoided directing his dad’s shows, but then took on the 2001 tour of Godspell, and is currently set to direct the elder Schwartz’s upcoming opera scheduled to open in the fall of 2009 at Opera Santa Barbara.
The fact sheet is courtesy of www.defyinggravitythebook.com

Find out all about Stephen Schwartz and the making of musicals like Godspell, Pippin, and Wicked in

Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked

Applause Theatre and Cinema Books (September 2008)

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