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What We Learned at Stephen Schwartz's 70th Birthday Extravaganza


When did 2018 become the year that everyone on Broadway turns 70?

It was a "who's who" of musical geniuses celebrating the long, successful career of composer Stephen Schwartz at the Hudson Theatre Monday night. Bobby and Kristen Lopez, Andrew Lippa, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Alan Menken, and Paul Shaffer, who hosted the concert, were there to sing Happy Birthday to the man who turned the big 7-0 last month. The evening was a benefit in honor of the Dramatists Guild Foundation, which helps nurture aspiring writers. Who knew all songwriters could also sing?

On their night off from Carousel, Lindsay Mendez and Renee Fleming sang tributes to Schwartz. Patina Miller and Ben Platt were there, brothers Casey and Corey Cott, and Glee's Alex Newell and Darren Criss. Wicked's Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth couldn't attend, so they recorded video toasts along with Victor Garber, who starred in the original version of Godspell.

Because no one could say no, Stephen Schwartz debuted a song he's writing for an untitled movie about Hans Christian Anderson. Stephen Schwartz is still working on the music for a Houdini and Prince of Egypt musical. Two songs from those shows were performed.

While Paul Shaffer (David Letterman's former musical director) admits he can't dance or do soft shoe, he performed a killer duet with Andrew Lippa (Big Fish, Addams Family) to "All For The Best" from Godspell.

Paul Shaffer got his big break in 1972, first as the audition pianist for Schwartz, who was mounting Godspell for a limited Toronto run and then moved up the ladder to become the show's musical director. The production starred unknowns including Victor Garber, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Gilda Radner and Martin Short.

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul also duet beautifully together with a rousing rendition of "No Time at All" from Pippin.

Stephen Schwartz sent a lot of aspiring composers long letters full of feedback, including to Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The Oscar, Grammy, and Tony winning duo told a story about how they gave a CD they made in college to Schwartz to review (never thinking he'd actually listen to it). About six months later, they got an 11-page email with his criticism and praises for each song.

As a surprise birthday gift to the man of the hour (or two), the Stephen Schwartz DCF Scholarship was created to help aspiring writers fulfill their dreams.

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