Broadway songwriter Stephen Schwartz made news this week with his announcement that in protest of North Carolina’s new legislation affecting which bathrooms can be used by transgender men and women, he will no longer allow any of his musicals to be produced in the state.
On the other hand, people in New York can get an over-sized dose of Schwartz on April 16 when Symphony Space on the Upper West Side produces “Wall to Wall Stephen Schwartz,” a free eight-hour, come-and-go-as-you-please concert event in which songs from his musicals will be performed by dozens of artists and Schwartz himself.
Here is a user-friendly guide to Schwartz’s best-known musicals:
‘Godspell’ (1971) — Gospel parables serve as the inspiration for catchy songs (“Day by Day,” “Prepare Ye”) and freewheeling sketches performed by hippie-happy youths, culminating in the death of Jesus. The 1973 film version with Victor Garber is set around iconic Manhattan locations. An updated 2011 Broadway revival with Hunter Parrish was less than successful.
‘Pippin’ (1972) — Another youth favorite with great pop songs (“Magic to Do,” “Corner of the Sky”), an idealistic college-age male looks to find complete fulfillment in war, sex, politics and finally middle-class monogamy. Bob Fosse’s original production was notable for its sexy choreography and dark overtones. A 2012 Broadway revival was built around a circus theme and incorporated acrobatic feats.
‘Working’ (1977) — After “Godspell” and “Pippin,” Schwartz would not have another hit on Broadway for three decades, but he did turn out some fine shows during that period. A revue based on the famous Studs Terkel book, “Working” looks at s a cross-section of Americans from different socioeconomic backgrounds and professions.
‘Children of Eden’ (1991) — Considered by many (including me) to be Schwartz’s finest work, the stories of Adam and Eve and Noah and the Ark are used to explore intolerance, parenting and loss. Amazingly enough, the musical has still not received a major New York City production, probably due to its large size. A 1997 production at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse received an excellent two-disc cast album.
Animated films — In the 1990s, Schwartz wrote the lyrics for the Disney animated films “Pocahontas” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and music and lyrics for Dreamworks’ “The Prince of Egypt.” A stage version of “Hunchback” with additional songs is starting to receive regional productions.
‘Wicked’ (2003) — This much-beloved, gravity-defying musical about the green-skinned of Oz and her blonde gal-pal Glinda keeps bringing in the green at Broadway’s Gershwin Theatre.