Stephen Schwartz is among the rare American composer-lyricists whose Broadway musicals have inspired passionate followings, resulting in blockbuster hits like Wicked, Godspell, and Pippin. In the revised and updated second edition of Defying Gravity, biographer Carol de Giere reveals how Schwartz’s beloved musicals came to life, adding four new chapters that shed light on the continuing Wicked phenomenon and exciting projects that include stage adaptations of The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Alan Menken and The Prince of Egypt.
A popular feature of the first edition remains intact for the second: the story of Schwartz’s commercially unsuccessful shows, how he coped, and how he gave himself another chance. The new edition also features an acclaimed series of “Creativity Notes” with insights about the creative process. Wicked enthusiasts are treated to a revealing, in-depth account of the show’s evolution that takes readers from developmental workshops, to the pre-Broadway tryout in San Francisco, through the arguments over changes for Broadway, and finally to productions around the world.
Movie musical fans know that Disney’s pairing of Stephen Schwartz (for lyrics) with composer Alan Menken (for music) led to award-winning movie musicals “Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Enchanted. Menken’s revelatory “Foreword” that introduces the second edition of Defying Gravity explores their “wonderful chemistry” and creative challenges.
The abundance of behind-the-scenes stories in this Stephen Schwartz biography came by way of the author’s unprecedented access to this legendary songwriter for interviews. She also drew from conversations with his family members, friends, and colleagues (librettists, composers, directors, producers, and actors) to render a rich portrait of this complex and gifted artist. She rounds out the book with photographs, Schwartz’s handwritten notes, and highlighted quotations.
Performers and others involved in productions of Godspell, Pippin, Children of Eden, Working, Rags, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, will discover the intentions of the shows’ creators. Singers, writers, fans, and anyone interested in the development of stage and film musicals will enjoy multiple insights from this backstage journey, from Godspell to Wicked, and beyond.
Carol de Giere (Georgetown Connecticut) is a freelance writer focusing on musicals and creativity. In addition to writing the Stephen Schwartz biography, Defying Gravity, she is the author of The Godspell Experience: Inside a Transformative Musical and is currently writing several other books.