Dramatists Guild Foundation toasted Tony recipient and six-time Tony nominee Stephen Schwartz April 23 in honor of his 70th birthday with a curated concert celebration and reception, celebrating the work of the illustrious artist. Though his real birth date may be March 6, as he told Playbill “there are so many March 6, I literally know six other people, so maybe I should be April 23. I’ll take it.”
Looking back on his career, Schwartz says all of his work feels personal and that he hopes audiences judge for themselves: “The truth is that I have things that are maybe a little bit more meaningful to me but I don’t share them because it makes people receive things in a different way.”
Schwartz made his Broadway debut as a composer-lyricist in 1972 with Pippin, a show he first developed while in undergrad. “It was a friend of mine named Ron Strauss [sic] who was at Carnegie Mellon with me and who had seen a paragraph in a history textbook about the son of Charlemagne rebelling against his father and it was the time of Lion in Winter. All we drama students loved Lion in Winter and we thought we'll do a kind of musical Lion and Winter-court intrigue and medieval melodrama.”
Responsible for the scores of Pippin, Godspell, Working, The Magic Show, Wicked, and the lyrics to Rags, Schwartz has been prolific on Broadway for more than four decades. A recipient of the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award, Schwartz is also a three-time Grammy winner, and a three-time Oscar winner for Best Score for Pocahontas, Best Original Song “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas, and Best Original Song for “When You Believe” from The Prince of Egypt, which he is currently adapting into a stage musical.
Jason Gotay, who starred in the world premiere production of the work as Ramses, spoke to Playbill about creating the new musical before stepping onstage to sing one of the songs from the show. The red carpet was full of performers who have sung Schwartz’s music—including Darren Criss, Corey Cott, and Ben Platt—in amateur and professional productions. “I was Pippin my senior year of high school,” said Platt. “I have a bootleg DVD of it, it’ll come out one day.” (Watch the full livestream to hear from all of these stars and more—plus they choose their favorite Schwartz Disney movie!)
Platt isn’t the only one who played a role in a Schwartz show growing up. Dear Evan Hansen Tony winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul shared the roles they played growing up, and so did Frozen’s Kristen Anderson-Lopez.
Before leaving DGF Toasts, Playbill spoke to two performers who have inhabited iconic Schwartz roles onstage: Ben Vereen, the original Leading Player in Pippin—don’t miss him singing “Magic to Do” below—and Lindsay Mendez who went on to sing Elphaba in Wicked.