Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Reluctant Pilgrim - Stephen Schwartz Sings His Own Songs

Lately I have been in a Stephen Schwartz state of mind.  There is a myriad of reasons for this turn of events.

I have always been a fan of his musicals.  I discovered Godspell when I was still in my post-college rebellious phase; its music and ethos fit me like a glove.  Then I discovered Pippin,  first hearing the music and then seeing it on Broadway.  Wow.  I was still trying to find my corner of the sky, so it really resonated with me at that stage of my long trek that has been a life-long pilgrimage.  I have worn out my CD of the original Broadway cast.

I saw The Magic Show starring Doug Henning, and wondered anew how these two magicians - Schwartz as composer and Henning as illusionist - were able to pull off their feats of stunning prestidigitation. Then I saw an early performance of Children of Eden, and I marveled at how this Jewish guy from New York had chosen to write and to combine these two stories of parenthood and rebellion from the Old Testament.  As a father, I was able to relate to Adam and to Noah.  I grew to love that show, and have subsequently seen many more productions and have worn out yet another CD.

On a trip to London a few years ago, I managed to snag a reasonably priced ticket to see Wicked in the West End.  My American theater-going friends were green with envy!  Then, not  long after this London trip, I met Mr. Schwartz briefly when he was involved behind the scenes with an A.R.T. production of a show called The Blue Flower.  The two of us had several conversations, and so I began to know the man behind the music.  And then last year I learned that Diane Paulus at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge was developing a new production of Pippin for the 40th anniversary of its debut on Broadway.  She was collaborating with Schwartz and with Gypsy Snider to add new layers to the telling the story of the young Prince who traveled through life wondering what price he might be willing to pay to be extraordinary.  And my repeat visits to the Loeb Drama Center at the A.R.T. gave me a few more occasions to converse with Mr. Schwartz and his wife, Carol.  And then one day after a final Cambridge performance of Pippin prior to its departure for Broadway, I was backstage waiting to see some of the cast members I had come to know.  There and then I met Carol de Giere, Schwartz's biographer and author of "Defying Gravity." In the course of reading Carol's chronicle of Schwartz career as a a composer and writer, I also learned that he had a parallel life as a singer/songwriter.

Thus, I became aware of several albums that Schwartz has recorded of his own songs.  Thus, I entered a new phase of my appreciation of his artistry.  While I write these words, I am enjoying the wonderful  assortment of songs in his CD, "Reluctant Pilgrim."  In wrapping up, let me share some of the lyrics from the opening song, Dreamscape:

Time to sail, reluctant pilgrim
My fear is all I've got to lose
Life is nothing
Nothing but a dreamscape
And the dream is mine to choose.

I am racing down a corridor
Endless doors on either side
I could open any one of them
Step on through and change my  life
Sometimes I pause there on  the threshold
Afraid to leave my bright familiar hall
Sometimes I spend my days running by so quickly
I don't see the doors at all.

Step on through, reluctant pilgrim
My fear is all I've got to lose
Life is nothing
Nothing but a dreamscape
And the dream is mine to choose.

This is beautiful and evocative songwriting gently sung.  Schwartz is a very good singer; he could have been cast in his own shows!  Enjoy this album as much as I am enjoying it.

"May the . . .



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