Friday, March 7, 2008

A belated happy birthday

The composer of the score for my beloved Wicked, Stephen Schwartz, turned 60 years old yesterday, and I completely forgot to wish him a happy birthday. So to make up for it, and to mark the occasion, here are some places to see and hear from him.

Last month, Schwartz was interviewed during his first trip Down Under by the arts editor for Australian Jewish News. You can listen to him talk about a variety of topics in the 18-minute interview, from his Academy Award nominations for Enchanted, to the Australian Open tennis tournament. (Schwartz is a big tennis buff).

Of course, Schwartz also talked a little bit about his reason for visiting Australia: The fourth international production of Wicked, after London, Tokyo and Stuttgart, Germany, opens in Melbourne in July. (With the Broadway production, sitdown companies in Los Angeles and Chicago, and a nationwide tour, has there ever been a musical theater phenomenon like Wicked?)

Schwartz said that when he came across Gregory Maguire's novel, he thought it was the best idea he'd ever heard of for a musical. "As soon as I heard the title and the basic idea, I thought that's for me." He said that the Wizard of Oz is such an American icon, and he enjoys spinning familiar characters and stories in a different direction.

He also talked about whether there's a particular Jewish sensibility to his work. While Schwartz said he never experienced any anti-Semitism growing up in a suburb of New York City, his sense of feeling a little bit outside the mainstream contributed to his interest in characters like Elphaba, "slightly alienated and slightly estranged and are struggling with that."

For a chance to see and hear from Schwartz, you can check out his 2006 appearance at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. There are seven short video clips of Schwartz talking about his childhood and musical influences, as well as his work on Wicked.

So happy 60th birthday Stephen Schwartz! The first time I heard the score for Wicked, in January 2007, I was moved. Your words and music resonated with me. They opened the door to a magical year of theatergoing. And 14 months later, whenever I listen to them, I'm still moved. I'm a fan - for good.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the generous comments you left on my blog, but I do have to say I really like the style of the blogs you post. This one came to my attention in particular, because Stephen Schwartz is one of my favorite composers also! So, Happy Belated Birthday to him from me also. :]

Esther said...

You're very welcome! And thank-you for the compliment. "Wicked" is one of my favorite musicals and I never get tired of writing about it. I just wish I'd managed to post something on his actual birthday. ;-)