Broadway composer Schwartz announces Goodspeed project

Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz.
Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz.

East Haddam - As the name suggests, the Goodspeed Festival of New Artists celebrated new artists this weekend, but a famous theater figure was in the spotlight, too.

Stephen Schwartz - who wrote the songs for "Wicked," "Godspell" and "Pippin" - was on hand for the announcement that he'll develop his musical "Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook" this fall at Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre in Chester.

This musical pulls together a variety songs from Schwartz's other shows, with a storyline - about a couple who look back over their three-decades-long marriage as it's collapsing - created by David Stern.

During a session at the Goodspeed Festival, Schwartz explained that, when he saw what Stern had devised, he realized that some of his old songs didn't fit precisely into the new show. They had, after all, been written for other characters in other musicals. So Schwartz decided to do a little rewriting.

"I wound up revising many, many of the lyrics - maybe half the lyrics," he said. "So I'm not sure there's ever been a show quite like this."

Schwartz sang a few of his songs that will be included in "Snapshots." Performers Daniel Plimpton and Erin Kommor enacted a scene between the two "Snapshots" characters as they meet at age 11, and the duo sang a version of "Wicked's" "Popular," with some tweaked lyrics.

Schwartz has been to Goodspeed before, having worked on his musical "The Baker's Wife" at the Norma Terris.

"I think it's going to be a lot of fun to come back here to Goodspeed, where I've had many happy experiences before," he said.

The snapshots of the title, by the way, are the photographs that the show's couple, Dan and Sue, find in the attic and that lead them to reminisce about their past selves captured in those pictures.

The "Snapshots" announcement came during the new musical preview segment of the three-day Festival of New Artists. (Last year during this part of the festival, Goodspeed made public that Julie Andrews' "The Great American Mousical" would be produced at the Norma Terris.)

As part of the weekend, a trio of new shows were given staged readings: "Nine Wives" by Douglas J. Cohen and Dan Elish; "Come from Away" by David Hein and Irene Sankoff; and "Princesses: A New Musical" by Janece Shaffer, Emma Lively, and Tyler Beattie.

Since this marks Goodspeed's 50th anniversary, the weekend featured a symposium on the theater's history. The panel included Executive Director Michael P. Price, music director Michael O'Flaherty, director Rob Ruggiero, former choreographer and director Dan Siretta, and former resident music director Lynn Crigler. They chatted about past productions and future work, including the new four-week residency program for musical theater writers that begins Monday (it's called the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals).

The festival also included such elements as a series or seminars and tours of the Goodspeed facilities. Among the seminar topics were Goodspeed's music department, in a session led by O'Flaherty; stage lighting, led by lighting designer Richard Pilbrow; and casting, led by casting director Paul Hardt.

David S. Leong, meanwhile, talked about fight direction. Leong has choreographed battles for more than 15 Broadway shows and for Goodspeed's recent "Amazing Grace."

While actors may look as though they're hurting each other in onstage fight scenes, they are, in actuality, protecting one another, he said. Fight direction creates the illusion that dangerous combat is going on.

"We are like magicians - how do you make it look real without being real?" he said.

While people might think that singing and dancing - and then fighting - have nothing in common, Leong notes that they all come into play onstage when characters experience such heightened emotions that things move beyond just talking. In some cases and filled with certain feelings, they sing. In other cases, they fight.


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