Composer Stephen Schwartz has found considerable popular success in the theater, both on and off Broadway, and in the movies, where he collaborated on several hit animated musicals for Disney.
Schwartz was born March 6, 1948, in New York City, and as a high schooler studied piano and composition at Juilliard. He earned a degree in drama from Carnegie Mellon University in 1968, penning several student-produced musical shows, and was hired as a producer and A&R man for RCA Records not long after. During his two years at RCA, Schwartz had his first major success with the title song from the play Butterflies Are Free; after leaving, he was invited to contribute music and new lyrics for the show that became Godspell, a massive hit in 1971 that won Schwartz two Grammys. Later that year, he wrote the lyrics to Leonard Bernstein's Mass, and in 1972 premiered a revised version of a show he'd begun working on in college, Pippin; directed by Bob Fosse, Pippin was another success, going on to a five-year Broadway run.
With the premiere of 1974's The Magic Show, which starred Doug Henning, Schwartz became the first composer to have three shows running on Broadway simultaneously. His hit streak appeared to come to an end with 1976's The Baker's Wife, which opened off Broadway to poor critical and commercial response; even so, it gained a cult reputation and eventually reopened in London in 1988 under the direction of Trevor Nunn. In the meantime, Schwartz returned to Broadway in 1978 with his adaptation of Studs Terkel's book Working, not only handling the script and songs but directing the production as well. When the show flopped, Schwartz took some time off from Broadway; Working was produced as a television show for PBS, which Schwartz also directed, and he followed it with a one-act children's musical, The Trip.
Schwartz ended his Broadway hiatus with 1986's Rags, a show for which he wrote the lyrics to a score by Charles Strouse. It didn't make much impression on Broadway, but found a second life through cast recordings and revivals elsewhere. With the overseas success of The Baker's Wife in 1988, Schwartz moved to London for a time, completing a new show called Children of Eden in 1991. Two years later, Disney asked Schwartz to write lyrics to the Alan Menken song "Cold Enough to Snow" (for Life With Mikey), which proved to be the beginning of a new partnership in the wake of former Menken partner Howard Ashman's death. Now working exclusively as a lyricist, Schwartz co-wrote the Oscar-winning score for 1995's Pocahontas, as well as the theme song "Colors of the Wind," which netted a Grammy and another Oscar. Their follow-up work on 1996's The Hunchback of Notre Dame was also Oscar-nominated, and a year later, Schwartz released his very first album, Reluctant Pilgrim, performing a set of new songs written from his own point of view (as opposed to theatrical characters). In 1999, Schwartz wrote both the music and lyrics to the DreamWorks animated musical The Prince of Egypt, winning another Oscar for his song "When You Believe." His second solo album, Uncharted Territory, was released in 2001, and his new musical Wicked was slated to open on Broadway in 2003. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi