The world is so small….and it all happens right here in Chicago.
Over the weekend, I went to The Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project: A Celebration of Stephen Schwartz. What a poignant evening for me, listening to the songbook of Stephen Schwartz, who created the songbook of some of my most memorable milestones in theatre – from my first Broadway job, ushering for GODSPELL at the Studebaker Theatre in Chicago’s Fine Arts Building, to the first show I saw on Broadway, PIPPIN starring Chicagoan Ben Vereen, to Broadway In Chicago’s most successful show WICKED. Then to hear all of this music sung by Stephen Schwartz himself, Craig Carnelia (SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS and WORKING) and Shoshana Bean (Broadway star of WICKED), complimented by some of the most amazing young voices from Northwestern. What the Mercer Project at Northwestern University does is great! What an amazing University that now fosters new musicals through the American Musical Theatre Project and fosters new songwriters through The Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project.
The future of musical theatre could not have been more present than in that concert hall, with the spirit of mentorship that Stephen Schwartz has always given freely and the convergence of new and established composers – running into Andrew Lippa in the parking lot (composer of THE ADDAMS FAMILY) and seated next to Neil Bartram and Brian Hill (from the new musical NOT WANTED ON THE VOYAGE that just premiered at Northwestern).
Overwhelmed by the evening and the memories, what could top it? How about running into your 8th grade science teacher from Irving School in Berwyn, who singled me out in a crowd only to tell me that she has followed my career! Where would I be if Mrs. Bliss hadn’t hired me to catalogue her music or cast me as Buttercup in HMS Pinafore? The world keeps getting smaller and there is just no need to be anywhere else but in the most amazing city in the world – Chicago.