One could say that the cast of the “new” Stephen Schwartz musical, “Snapshots,” now running at Goodspeed Musicals’ Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT, through November 17 are singing the same old tune. While that may be technicially true as they resurrect familiar melodies from the composer’s vast body of work, which includes such shows as “Godspell,” “Pippin” and “Wicked,” it in no way describes the new vitality and meaning in each number, as Schwartz has provided new lyrics and new arrangements to 20+ pieces that he wrote originally for other shows.
For in fact, “Snapshots” is a totally new, original musical that bears no resemblance to any of the productions in which those songs initially appeared. It tells the story of a marriage in crisis, from the perspective of the couple facing a turning point after 20 years together. Dan and Sue discover a box of old photographs which stimulates memories of their past selves, who are represented by four additional actors playing the couple at earlier phases in their relationship.
Schwartz and his book writer, David Stern, have conceived a show that repositions a number of Schwartz’s previous songs into new contexts that accommodate the new plot and serve the emotions of these new characters. Stern is also billed as a co-conceiver of the show, along with Michael Scheman. The show is being directed by Daniel Goldstein who directed the recent critically acclaimed and sold out production of “Hello Dolly” at the Goodspeed Opera House and who also directed the recent revival of Schwartz’s “Godspell” on Broadway.
We spoke to a cast member from each of three sets of couples who play Sue and Dan over the years to learn more their experience in performing in a Schwartz show, any previous association with Schwartz’s music, and what it has been like to perform some familiar songs with fresh lyrics provided for some original characters.
Mark Jacoby plays Dan, looking back over all of his 20 years of marriage. Jacoby’s previous involvement with a Schwartz production, other than being an enthusiastic audience member at one of his shows, consisted of playing the Wizard of Oz in the first national tour of “Wicked.” As he recalls, “it was a great job. I enjoyed every day of doing it. And the show has turned out to be quite the world-wide phenomenon.”
As for “Snapshots,” he is pleased to be able to explore any number of Schwartz’s songs that he had previously had no opportunity to sing. “This show is an interesting twist on the concept of the jukebox musical,” he indicates. “The songs are built around a definite plot and they all have been tweaked lyrically to fit into the show with new or augmented orchestrations.”
When he first read the script for the show, he reveals that he didn’t recognize any of the songs at first because the libretto was all original. And even when a familiar melody appears, it may not be represented in the same manner in which it appeared back in the original Schwartz show. For example, he continues, “the song, ‘Popular,’ appears in the show but not necessarily as a self-contained number.”
Up and coming Broadway leading lady Elizabeth Stanley, who plays the wife, Susan, in mid-marriage, first heard Godspell when she was 12 years old “and I have loved his stuff ever since” she enthuses. Her first opportunity to perform in a Schwartz show occurred during high school when she went to Monaco as part of an international theater festival. “I performed with kids from all over Europe in a story about the principality of Monaco—all using the music of Godspell.”
She includes the song “The Wizard and I” in her repertory and shares the story of how “I sang it in India at a Shanti Bhavan school assembly, where I was spending the summer as a volunteer teacher. I chose it because the words are very inspiring especially for a group of kids who constantly battle feeling different or being made to feel lesser,” she relates.
Dan DeLuca, who plays young Danny between the ages of 11 to 22ish, explains “I have always been extensively familiar with Stephen’s music. As I was growing up, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Pocahontas,” for which Stephen wrote the songs, were just being released on VHS so naturally I would watch those with my sisters all the time and they are certainly guilty pleasures to watch to this day.”
Oddly enough, he continues, “a lot of milestones in my life include being part of a Stephen Schwarz musical. My first professional gig in high school was doing “Godspell” in Pittsburgh at the Byham Theatre. It was the first moment in my life when I was performing professionally and thinking, ‘hey, this acting dream may actually be possible.’ The other big milestone was at the end of my schooling at CAP21 Conservatory in New York playing Cain and Japheth in a production of “Children of Eden.” It was the last show in my final semester before graduating and heading out into the real world so that show will always hold a very special place in my heart.”
Jacoby has previously appeared in another show that served as a compendium of a particular composer’s work, specifically “Side by Side by Sondheim.” “But that was a revue,” he says, “and not a book show like this one.” This show, he indicates, “is much more substantial. Stephen and Daniel are dealing with important material, taking a look at the dissolution of a marriage, as the couple examines what went wrong, what went right. Stephen’s music fits the story quite well. He writes with an unabashed sentimentality that captures the feelings of a relationship in later life. And the book adapts very well to Stephen’s music.
For Stanley, she has found working on “Snapshots” to be “very interesting to interpret the songs in new ways. Just by altering a few lyrics some of the songs really take on new meaning. I have to say I really love the arrangements of ‘Meadowlark’ and ‘Spirit of Creation’ because they are great to sing with other women.”
“It’s been quite something to see how powerful this show is,” adds Jacoby. “The range of emotions that the music brings up is incredible. In rehearsal, we’ve often has a hard time getting through the emotions which capture all of the components of a marriage, through the basic relationship to parenting and family, to the misunderstandings that only heal to a point.”
For the cast, any number of Schwartz’s songs carry special meaning. Stanley says “I would love to be in ‘The Baker’s Wife.’ I’ve always loved that score.” There’s also a special Schwartz song that over the years has spoken to her in a special way—“Chanson” from “The Baker’s Wife.” As she tells it, “this is a song I’ve sung just in my room or at my piano for years. The words and melody are just gorgeous.”
As an up and coming Broadway star, DeLuca explains that “honestly, I’d love to appear in any of Schwartz’s shows. It is just such a blast singing his material and the shows themselves are musical theater gold. ‘Pippin,’ ‘Wicked,’ ‘Children of Eden,’ plop me into any of these shows and I’m a happy camper.”
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