On Friday night, I went to a concert at Carnegie Hall, celebrating the work of composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz.
For the past 10 years, his musical Wicked has been flying high on Broadway, but he does have a few Disney connections — as lyricist for tunes from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pocahontas, and Enchanted. (For non-Disney but animation fans, he also worked on The Prince of Egypt.)
The second half of Friday’s show opened with a few highlights from Schwartz’s work on animated films. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to hear the opening of The Hunchback of Notre Dame live and from the NY Pops orchestra — it was beautiful and full and gave me total goosebumps. For so long, I’ve felt The Hunchback should be Disney on Broadway’s next venture and just hearing this small part, solidified that fact for me.
Jeremy Jordan, original cast member of Broadway’s Newsies and currently on NBC’s Smash, sang my absolute favorite Hunchback song, “Out There”.
(There aren’t videos or recordings from the event that include the Disney tunes so I’m going to include videos from the movie.)
My favorite lyric: “Won’t resent / Won’t despair / Old and bent / I won’t care / I’ll have spent / One day / Out there.”
Julia Murney, Broadway actress who last starred in Broadway’s Wicked, sang “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas. She did a wonderful job, but my favorite song from the 1996 movie is actually “Just Around the Riverbend.” So I’m going to share that one today.
Favorite lyric: “What I love most about rivers is / You can’t step in the same river twice / The water’s always changing, always flowing
But people, I guess, can’t live like that / We all must pay a price / To be safe, we lose our chance of ever knowing / What’s around the riverbend.”
Unfortunately, the program opted for two The Prince of Egypt songs over anything from Enchanted (thinking back, it might have been because there were two women and two men singing, and men song selections were hard to come by?). But here’s my favorite from this movie. (I have to watch this soon!)
Of course, I’m partial to “That’s How You Know” because of the mariachi band and the awesome scenes around Central Park? It’s a pretty charming song.
Schwartz’s work with Alan Menken (yay!) on these three movies earned him 2 Oscars and a Grammy Award.
This year, Schwartz will once again have two of his shows on Broadway: a revival of Pippin and, of course, Wicked. It’s shocking to hear that Wicked has hit the 10-year mark on Broadway already. When I was in college, I saw it in the first few months it opened and I haven’t felt it necessary to ruin that moment and see it again since then. But hearing the overture on Friday night, as well as a few of the songs performed, it’s still memorizing and beautiful music.
Surprisingly, Schwartz appeared on stage near the end of Friday’s show and shared with the audience two songs that led to the golden ticket for one of the opening numbers. It was really interesting to hear about the process, and almost baffling to think about someone having to go back to the drawing board and re-write both music and lyrics twice.
“The Wizard and I” is the “I want” song of the show. I hadn’t heard of this before, but it’s the song that tells us what our main character desires and hopes to achieve; the rest of the show are the steps to get her there. By the time, Schwartz rewrote this song Idina Menzel was already cast as Elphaba (a.k.a The Wicked Witch) and he felt the song should be edgier to fit her. When the song still didn’t work, he axed the whole thing and started from scratch, finally writing “The Wizard and I”.
I can’t tell you how many times I cranked this song up in my car and sang at the top of my lungs. (Oh, it was not pretty.)
In his vast career, Stephen Schwartz has worked on music for operas, musicals, and films. It’s a pretty amazing resume, and it was fantastic to hear so much of it in one program. Going to Carnegie Hall and hearing NY Pops is such a fun experience, and I hope it won’t be the last time!
(Photos from Playbill.)