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The Musical Theater of Stephen Schwartz: From Godspell to Wicked and Beyond Hardcover – April 10, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (April 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810891913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810891913
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,221,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Seated next to Stephen Sondheim in the front row of the American musical theater pantheon is the prolific and prodigiously talented composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz (b. 1948). Throughout a career spanning four decades that includes such hits as Godspell, Pippin, and Wicked, Schwartz has been honored with multiple Tony nominations, three Grammys, and three Academy Awards. Musical theater scholar Laird has written an in-depth study focusing on Schwartz’s projects and music. Acknowledging Carol de Giere’s biographical contributions in her 2008 book, Defying Gravity, the author concentrates on the music and musical styles of Schwartz’s theater and film work. Arranged chronologically, the title begins with an introduction to Schwartz with individual chapters on Godspell; his collaboration with Leonard Bernstein on Bernstein’s Mass; Broadway and off-Broadway shows Pippin, The Magic Show, The Baker’s Wife, Working, Rags, and Children of Eden; Schwartz’s work on animated features for Disney and DreamWorks; then the success of the musical Wicked; his opera, Seance on a Wet Afternoon, and works outside Broadway and Hollywood. VERDICT Laird offers a definitive musical analysis of Schwartz’s incredible career to date. A trenchant investigation that is both erudite and accessible, this book is an essential acquisition for all academic, professional, and large public library collections. (Library Journal, Starred Review)

Laird has crafted a scholarly yet accessible review of composer/lyricist Schwartz’s work. While sentences like 'The choral writing is in four parts with a few passing tones' will only resonate with readers who have studied music, there is still lots here for fans of musical theatre—and even a few tidbits for Disney and Dreamworks fans who are fond of the musical scores of Pocahontas and The Prince of Egypt. Laird’s most insightful coverage is of Schwartz’s work on Godspell and Pippin, composer’s earliest successes. Interviews with Schwartz reveal both insider secrets and fun trivia, including that Godspell’s most famous song, 'Day by Day,' is modeled on Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s 'What the World Needs Now.' (Publishers Weekly)

Laird has a fine list of publications, e.g., Leonard Bernstein: A Guide to Research. Here he presents a comprehensive biography of Schwartz and a guide to all his worksfor the musical stage, film, concert stage, and opera. Schwartz is multitalented, and the author chronicles his achievements as a composer, lyricist, director, and theatrical creator. Productions included range from Godspell (1971) to the opera Séance on a Wet Afternoon (2009). Particularly strong are Laird's descriptions of the changing versions of each production as it progressed toward the stage, with close attention to the many musical styles Schwartz employs. Throughout the volume Laird notes that this new work supplements but does not replace two earlier books: his own Wicked: A Musical Biography (2011) and Carol de Giere's Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz from Godspell to Wicked (2008). Those volumes should be consulted, especially for more details on Wicked. Excellent notes and bibliography. Summing Up: Recommended. Large performing arts collections. (CHOICE)

About the Author

Paul R. Laird is professor of musicology at the University of Kansas, where he teaches courses in music history, musical theater, and directs the Instrumental Collegium Musicum. He is the coauthor of Historical Dictionary of the Broadway Musical (2007) and author The Baroque Cello Revival: An Oral History (2004) and Wicked: A Music Biography (2011), all published by Scarecrow Press.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tom on June 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover
First off, the good points: Laird has done a lot of research and a great deal of scholarship has gone into this book. The book is full of useful information and does a nice job of giving an overview of Schwartz's work. The not so good points: I found the book a tad boring. Also, there were several errors in his story telling. He claims that Godspell at the Roundhouse in London did not use a fence, but it did. His source was publicity photos taken in a rehearsal hall. He also states that the Broadway revival had 30 premieres. I assume he meant 30 previews as a show gets only one premiere. If he doesn't understand theatre nomenclature, why is he writing about the theatre? The book takes a scholarly approach to the music in Schwartz's shows. To the lay reader without a music theory background, the book may be mystifying. At times informative, but always dry and stodgy. I much prefer Carol de Giere's Defying Gravity.
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