Defying Gravity

Book Review by Willard Manus

Recently, Applause published another celebrity bio, this one about Stephen Schwartz, the composer/songwriter of such landmark Broadway hits as Pippin, Godspell and Wicked. Written by Carol de Giere, DEFYING GRAVITY--THE CREATIVE CAREER OF STEPHEN SCHWARTZ provides an intriguing look not only at Schwartz's life but his way of working.
Born into a happy New York middleclass family, Schwartz fell in love with musical theatre when he was taken, at age nine, to see a Broadway production of Shinbone Alley. That spurred him to continue with his piano lessons and begin writing songs, some of which were good enough to gain him admittance to Juilliard School of Music as a teenager. The precocious Schwartz then went on to Carnegie Mellon where, while studying for a BFA in drama, he began writing musicals, including the forerunner of Pippin.
A few years later, he and lyricist John-Michael Tebelak collaborated on Godspell, which premiered at the Cherry Lane Theate in Greenwich Village on a $50,000 budget and eventually transferred to the uptown 399-seat Promenade Theatre, where it ran for 2,123 performances. Schwartz then went on to many other successful Broadway and Hollywood projects, interspersed with some horrendous flops (such as Working). So painful was the latter experience that Schwartz actually thought of quitting the theatre and becoming a therapist! Then he took a shot at Wicked and found happiness and fame again.