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Ten Minutes With Stephen Schwartz

Acclaimed lyricist and musician of hits like "Wicked" at Ridgefield Playhouse



Photo by Scott Mullin

**Exclusive for Townvibe readers, a chance to win two tickets to see "Stephen Schwartz: The Brains Behind Broadway" at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Saturday, April 2 at 8pm -- A winner has been selected.

Schwartz will be interviewed in an “inside the actors studio” style. Interwoven throughout the evening will be performances by stars Lindsay Mendez, Kara Lindsay and Derek Klena from "Wicked." 

Stephen Schwartz  has a career that’s lasted more than 40 years. He has written the music and lyrics for some of the most beloved Broadway productions ever, including Wicked and Godspell. Although he spends time in New York, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, Schwartz’s home is in Ridgefield, where we spoke with him about his career, his passion for music, and his April 2 show at the Ridgefield Playhouse, where he performed for the opening gala in 2000.

What keeps you busy?
An endless succession of deadlines. But that’s a good thing. 

What’s in front of you now?
We have a reading that starts rehearsing in two weeks—a stage adaptation of Prince of Egypt, and so I’m trying to get all the new songs done for that. And I just got back from California, where I was in writing sessions on a movie that I’m doing with my frequent collaborator Alan Menken. 

What’s the movie?
Right now it is an untitled movie, a sort of a send-up of Mary Poppins, starring the comedian Josh Gad.

What inspires you when you sit down to write?
Well, the deadline is very inspirational! Basically, I have a story I work within, and usually there is a script or outline with characters. I try to enter the world of the story and see what happens. 

Was there ever a point when you thought of doing something other than music?
This was my lifelong dream. I started taking music lessons early, and my theater-going parents took me to shows, so I fell in love with musical theater. However, there have been times where I felt burnt out and thought I might pursue something else.

Are you a fan of popular music?
Since the Balkanization of pop music, where everything is very niche, I’ve lost some interest. So this century’s pop music I don’t know very much about. I listen to sixties to nineties stations, on Sirius.

Are there composers who influence you?
Lots of them. I tend to do a lot of research for every project. So with Prince of Egypt, I listened to ancient Egyptian music and Hebraic music and pop-Israeli music as influences. And I’m doing a show in Vienna, set at the time of Mozart, so I’ve been listening to Mozart.

Do you work in Ridgefield?
I do all of my writing in Ridgefield. I don’t write in New York unless I absolutely have to. Ridgefield has always been the center of where I find inspiration.

And do you have a particular room? 
I have a couple of rooms. I have two pianos here at the house—one in the living room, and I have a music room upstairs where I have my digital keyboard. 

What will the performance be at the Playhouse on April 2?
An onstage interview, conducted by Dan Levine, and then a few of us will sing—mostly an illustration of what we talk about in the interview.

Do you perform much?
Maybe half a dozen shows a year. Just sort of on a case-by-case basis—sometimes because it’s a place or organization I want to support.

Do you play when you have friends over?
Not usually. Except for Christmas Eve when we have a big carols sing.
                                  

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