Sunday, June 16, 2024

Theater: LA Gets a Blast of New York from Broadway’s Stephen Schwartz with Perfomances by Megan Hilty, Idina Menzel, Others


Stephen Schwartz, composer of “” Wicked,” Godspell,” “Pippin,” “Enchanted,” “The Prince of Egypt,” “Pocohantas,” “and so much more well deserves all the accolades he gets. His latest honor is near and dear to him. Wallis Annenberg, the noted philanthropist of many causes, founded the Center for Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. Schwartz didn’t need prodding to accept this honor. He told me that, “I get asked to do a lot of these, I pick my spots, and I picked the Annenberg. I really believe in what they do and proud they selected me.” What’s next for this prolific composer? “The most front burner thing is the stage adaptation of ‘The Prince of Egypt’ which is going to open in the West End of London in the beginning of next year. “

Idina Menzel, whose Elphaba in “Wicked” launched her career, before paid tribute to him by saying, “Having Stephen Schwartz in my life, well, it changed the trajectory of my life. It changed everything about me. I embraced the power and the beauty of a unique, fierce, incredible woman and to feel the calm in owning that and not apologizing for who you are.” Menzel also had a cute moment when as she started to wax poetic about Schwartz, she asked the piano player to vamp a bit so “I’m not alone out here!” She then sang her noted song, “Defying Gravity.”

Performances by others included Megan Hilty (who just finished playing Patsy Cline for a Lifetime movie) Andrea Martin, Liz Callaway, (who is playing Feinstein’s in Manhattan singing Schwartz’s songs) opera star Angel Blue, Isaiah Johnson, Jordan Fisher, the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus and more. The first Pippin himself John Rubenstein, Producer and frequent Schwartz collaborator Marc Platt, and respected artistic director Paul Crewes, along with executive director Rachel Fine, all honored him as well. Oscar winners Justin Paul and Benj Pasek came to honor their mentor, and video clips included a funny Jason Alexander who auditioned himself for the “Wicked” wizard role, Kristin Chenoweth and David Copperfield.

Co-Chair Wallis Annenberg presented Schwartz with a $100,000 donation to the ASCAP Foundation, where he serves as the Artistic Director. She remarked that, “Stephen Schwartz once wrote this wonderful line, (referring to “Corner Of The Sky” from “Pippin”) that “People like the way dreams have of sticking to the soul.’ That is why we created this center six years ago. We all need dreams that touch us deep down inside, that stick to our soul, and that is why Stephen’s career has been so extraordinary, so iconic, because his stories, his compositions, his glorious works of art speak to the deepest emotions about who we are and who we want to be.” Stephen then played the evening’s closing number, his new song “Can You Imagine.” Wallis is right, Stephen defines the word ‘iconic.’



Photo Credit:  (Michael Kovac / Getty Images)

Leah Sydney
Leah Sydney
Leah Sydney writes from Los Angeles for A seasoned journalist with a long history during the halcyon days of the NY Daily News, Leah is a member of the Critics Choice and Rotten Tomatoes.

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