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A 'Wicked'-ly wonderful evening with the NSO Pops

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

American composer Stephen Schwartz is one of those multitalented individuals who dips his fingers into many streams and stirs up a flood of successes. As a composer and lyricist, he has created projects for Broadway, film, television and the opera house, and accumulated six Tony Award nominations, three Grammy Awards, a Drama Desk Award and three Academy Awards.

To celebrate his 65th birthday and the 10th anniversary of "Wicked," conductor Steven Reineke and the National Symphony Orchestra will perform some of the composer's songs that are known and loved by fans everywhere. They will be joined by vocalists Jennifer Laura Thompson, Julia Murney, Jeremy Jordan and Norm Lewis, and the Washington Chorus.

"We've put this program together with Stephen over the past year and recently performed it at Carnegie Hall," Reineke said. "All the soloists are outstanding. Jennifer and Laura are best known for their roles in 'Wicked,' Jennifer as the Good Witch Glinda and Julie as Elphaba, so they will reprise songs from that show. Jennifer received a Tony nomination for her role in 'Urinetown' and most recently has been in 'Nice Work If You Can Get It.'

"Norm was a Tony Award nominee for his performance as Porgy in 'The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess,' as was Jeremy for the lead role in 'Newsies.' He is currently seen on television in 'Smash.' Both the soloists and the Washington Chorus will be featured at the end of Act I in a 'Godspell' medley that lasts 12 minutes. It all flows together beautifully."

Onstage
NSO Pops honor Stephen Schwartz
» Where: Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 2700 F St. NW
» When: 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
» Info: $20 to $85; 202-467-4600; 800-444-1324; kennedy-center.org

Reineke will choose from a veritable treasure trove of songs that mark Schwartz's output over the past 40 years. In addition to Broadway hits "Wicked" and "Godspell," there are "Pippin," "The Magic Show," "The Baker's Wife," "Children of Eden" and even an opera, "Seance on a Wet Afternoon." The New York Times review of the New York City Opera production praised Schwartz's harmonies and libretto.

Even though "The Baker's Wife" did not make it to Broadway, it has since been mounted to acclaim in London and at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse. Its cast album has achieved cult status, and one song in particular, "Meadowlark," has become so popular that Reineke includes it in the concert.

To celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen, Schwartz wrote music and lyrics for "My Fairytale," a commission that opened in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2005. Two years ago, the American premiere was held at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts Theaterfest in Solvang, Calif.

Then there is Schwartz's Hollywood connection that led to his collaboration with Alan Menken on several Disney animated features. For the first, "Pocahontas," he received two Academy Awards, one for his lyrics to "Colors of the Wind," the other for the score. It was followed by "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," "Pippi Longstocking" and "The Prince of Egypt," which provided his third Academy Award win for the song "When You Believe." Additionally, he wrote the lyrics for the Disney film "Enchanted" and the theme song for the Playhouse Disney show "Johnny and the Sprites."

Along the way, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, as well as the American Theatre Hall of Fame. Not content with his many achievements to date, he is presently composing the music for "Houdini," a musical scheduled for Broadway later this year starring Hugh Jackman in the title role.

"Our tribute to Schwartz is co-produced with the New York Pops," Reineke said. "When we performed it at Carnegie Hall, we hoped that Jackman could make a surprise appearance, but he was away filming and couldn't attend. It's so much fun conducting his music because his own evolution over the past 40 years encompasses his gift for melody, lyrics and harmony.

"The music for his Broadway shows is played by a small pit orchestra, so it's a thrill to have created brand-new arrangements for the 80-piece orchestra that will show off the music in all its glory with the soloists and chorus."

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