Lippa and Chenoweth have enjoyed a decades-long relationship. In 1999, Lippa contributed additional material to the Broadway run of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Chenoweth's Tony-winning performance in that show was anchored by the show-stopping Lippa song "My New Philosophy." Last fall, the duo reunited for the New York premiere of Lippa's historic oratorio I Am Harvey Milk, which was presented in an acclaimed, one-night-only concert at Avery Fisher Hall.
Over the past year, the two were quietly working behind the scenes on a new, show-stopping song for Chenoweth to sing in the new Disney Channel film "Descendants," about the children of iconic Disney villains. Chenoweth finds her wicked streak in the film, taking on the role of Maleficent.
We caught up with Lippa, who shared details on the creation of Chenoweth's "Descendants" song, upcoming projects they are collaborating on and what fans can expect from the new Wild Party concert performances at Encores! Off-Center July 15-18.
For fans who can't wait to see "Descendants" on July 31, can you tell us a bit about Kristin's song in the film and what it's called? Andrew Lippa: It's called "Evil Like Me." I'm not sure I can give away too many specifics, but it's an opportunity for Kristin, AKA Maleficent, to let loose and espouse the virtues of evil to her daughter... only the way that Kristin can.
Kristin Chenoweth Looks Positively Wicked in First Pics as Maleficent in Disney's "Descendants"
A recent online preview of the film called the song a "dramatic showstopper."
AL: I read that! A showstopper. I'm delighted by the term, and I encourage the use of it. [Laughs.]
Did you write any other songs for the film?
AL: No, just the one for Kristin.
How did the creation of the song come about?
AL: It happened very quickly. It was wonderful timing. I was hired to do the song the day before Kristin's Carnegie Hall concert last year. I was one of her guest stars on that show, we did "My New Philosophy" together and I didn't play the piano, I was the other actor on stage. I sang the number with her. I had written a portion of "Evil Like Me" earlier that day, and I played it for her in her dressing room during the technical rehearsal in Carnegie Hall.
It was really fun. It was also a pinch me moment. We were at Carnegie Hall, in her technical rehearsal where she's singing my song, and I'm singing it with her, and then there I was playing her this new song that she was going to do in a Disney movie.
I had written about a minute-and-a-half of it. She read it and listened to it on a headset. She looked at me and laughed and said, [imitating Kristin Chenoweth], "Oh Lippa, you've done it again." [Laughs.] She was thrilled. It was such a joyful and wonderful process making that song.
The two of you have had such a warm and rich collaboration.
AL: I feel very close to Kristin and know her personally and professionally so very well. Writing for her and helping her find all the things that she really loves to do and help create things for her has been one of the joys of my creative life. Our lives have never not intersected. For quite a few years I was her music director for all the shows that she did, including the Met and her first Carnegie Hall concert. We then did I Am Harvey Milk at Lincoln Center together in October.
Are you working on anything else together?
AL: I'm writing a new piece. It's a partner piece for I Am Harvey Milk that we just did a little workshop on last week, and Kristin is committed to help develop that with us. In very many way's she's my muse. Many people might not know this, but I've always wanted to be a 4'11" girl from Oklahoma. [Laughs.]
You're also returning to work on The Wild Party, which is set to play Encores! Off-Center in a few weeks. Word has it that you've been working on the show a bit since audiences last saw it Off-Broadway in 2000.
AL: These opportunities are so great for living authors. Dead authors don't take advantage of them. [Laughs.] We get the opportunity to revisit work. I started work on The Wild Party 19 years ago, and so I'm a different man and a different artist, and I've seen multiple productions of the show throughout the years. I've learned what it is that I'd like to change.
All I can say at the moment is that there will be some surprises for people who know the show. There will be some some things that they don't know anymore, new things, and there will be some things that will be missing where they might say, "Hey, where'd that go?" Or, what I'm hoping, the experience is, is that the show plays so much better and truer and even the people who know the CD won't necessarily notice that something might be shorter, or missing, or have some changed lyrics. And if they do, hopefully, they will appreciate that it's in service of telling the story better.
Watch the new extended trailer for "Descendants" below: