It is interesting that two of the most significant composers for the musical theatre who first emerged in the 70s were actually born in the same month of the same year, and while Andrew Lloyd Webber is without the doubt the more famous they both represent a 'new wave'. Steven Schwartz is the grand old master, being born a whole two weeks earlier. While attending High School, the precocious Schwartz studied piano and composition at the Julliard School of Music at weekends and after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University gained a position as a young producer at RCA Records as well as working in their Artist and Repertoire department. Rejecting the life of a full-time salaried staffer he quit to pursue a career as a composer and enjoyed his first success with the title song for the immensely successful 1969 Broadway production Butterflies Are Free. A fellow former student and colleague at Carnegie Mellon University was a budding director and playwright John-Michael Tebelak whose thesis for his Masters was a show based on the Gospel of Saint Matthew. Schwartz was invited by the producers to write the music for Tebelak's Godspell, and the musical premiered off-Broadway in 1971. Schwartz helped craft both music and lyrics for the score which included songs such as 'Prepare Ye The Way Of The Lord' and the classic 'Day By Day'. The show went on to become incredibly popular and subsequently spawned a number of revivals and a London show with a cast that included the then relatively unknown David Essex, Julie Covington, Jeremy Irons and Marti Webb. Rewarded with numerous accolades and two Grammy Awards for the original New York cast album, Schwartz went on to work with Leonard Bernstein on the English texts for the former's Mass which was performed at the 1971 opening ceremony of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C.
His next work was composing the music and lyrics for Pippin that received its Broadway premiere at the Imperial Theatre in 1972 and ran for almost five years, while the subsequent The Magic Show also featured his original music and lyrics. Schwartz's success as a major new force in musical theatre was unquestionably confirmed when Godspell, Pippin and The Magic Show were all running on Broadway at the same time. Although the following productions The Bakers Wife (1976), Working (1978), Rags (1986) and Children Of Eden (1991) were only modest successes, his 1995 collaboration with Alan Menken (whose long time lyricist Howard Ashman had died in 1991) on the Disney animation Pocahontas introduced his work to a whole new younger audience. The movie's soundtrack sold millions of copies, topped the US charts and saw the composers rewarded with Oscars for both Original Musical or Comedy Score and Original Song for 'Colors Of The Wind'. Schwartz and Menken segued straight into the score for another Disney animation with the following year's The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.
In 1997 he released his debut album Reluctant Pilgrim that featured all original material (apart from 'The Hardest Part Of Love' from Children Of Eden) and it found the composer writing for his own voice for the first time. In 1998 he teamed-up with the prolific Hans Zimmer to compose the music and songs for the DreamWorks animation movie The Prince Of Egypt which garnered him another Oscar and a Golden Globe Award for the song 'When You Believe'. His second solo album Uncharted Territory was released in 2001 and preceded his next production Wicked, (based on the witches in the Wizard Of Oz) that opened on Broadway in 2003. One of the most rewarded shows of his career the musical (featuring the hugely popular 'Defying Gravity') received three Tony Awards, Six Drama Desk Awards while the resulting original cast album won a Grammy Award and was subsequently certified double platinum. Schwartz's career also took in work for television ('Johnny And The Sprites' for the children's TV show of the same name in 2005) and stage (Snapshots, Captain Louie and Mit Eventyr - My Fairy Tale (all in 2005)) while his next film work was another collaboration with Alan Menken, writing the lyrics for the 2007 Disney live-action comic fantasy movie Enchanted. Two years later Schwartz premiered his first Opera, Séance On A Wet Afternoon based on Mark McShane's novel and Bryan Forbes' screenplay of the 1964 film version. The two act opera opened in Santa Barbara and debuted at the New York City Opera in 2011. Stephen Schwartz has enjoyed immense success with work for both stage and screen, and in a career that already spans five decades, his versatility at composing both words and music has marked him out as one of the most celebrated and unique individuals currently working in the industry. In addition to his impressive collection of Oscars, Tonys, Golden Globes and Grammy Awards he was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2008 and inducted into both the Theatre Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall Of Fame the following year.
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