An Evening with Stephen Schwartz

Stories and performance by of one of musical theater’s best


Age range: Good for 7-12 grades

Estimated Time: Give yourself some time! This interactive takes about 1 hour to complete with activities.

Key Technology: You can use this on a computer or whiteboard—but you will need speakers (or headphones) for the music parts.

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In this video presentation, students meet one of American musical theater’s most talented composers, Stephen Schwartz. Topics include his musical education, his break into show business, and the creative process behind his musicals.

Think About...

Viewing Strategy: As you view, stay focused on your purpose for viewing.

Before you get started, think of what you already know about musical theater. What shows have you seen before? Have you seen Wicked? What do you remember about it? Keep these things in mind as you explore the interactive.

  • As you watch, thinking about Stephen Schwartz’s influences.
  • As you listen, stop the audio track after each section to sum up what you have learned.
  • This story is downloadable- grab it for repeated viewing.


  • Describe Stephen’s background. How did he get into music?
  • How did the musical Pippin come about? Describe Stephen’s process.

Critical Thinking

Analyze Stephen’s style. What are some elements that characterize his lyrics or melodic/musical style?


Quiz Yourself! Throughout his career, Stephen was influenced by the guidance or suggestions of several people. Who were some of them?

Learn More

Dig Deeper! Check out some of these resources on Stephen Schwartz:

For the Educator

  • Ask students to define musical theater as it applies to stage productions and films. Lead a discussion on what distinguishes a "musical" from a "story with music." Discuss how the incorporation of dance into musical theater conveys ideas and emotions in abstract but effective ways.
  • Have students research the history of musical theater, including influential composers, lyricists, and choreographers such as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Frank Loesser, Lerner and Loewe, Leonard Bernstein, Jerry Herman, Jerome Robbins, Stephen Sondheim, Meredith Wilson, Bob Fosse, Stephen Schwartz, Andrew Lloyd Webber and many others.
  • Explore how songs (as monologues) in musical theater can further character development and storylines in ways realistic dialogue cannot. Compare the use of songs by composers of musical theater to the use of soliloquies by Shakespeare and other playwrights.
  • Have students list familiar books and movies that have been developed into popular musicals (e.g, Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, etc.) How were the original works modified to include songs for character and plot development? In what other ways was the original work changed to fit the structure of a stage musical?.
  • Select a filmed version of a musical (e.g., Chicago, West Side Story, Little Shop of Horrors, etc.). What elements of stage production remain in the filmed version? How does the moveable point of view of the camera compare with the fixed point of view of a theater audience member?.
  • Have your students read a book that has been developed into a stage or film musical (e.g., The Wizard of Oz, Wicked, Les Misérables, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Romeo and Juliet, etc.) After reading the book, have the students listen to the soundtracks from the film or stage musical. Ask them to identify the characters singing based on the subject of the song. Have the students explore plot elements of the story they are communicating in the songs, and how effectively the musical delivery succeeds as compared to the text in the book.
  • Encourage students to select an existing work of fiction (book or film) they feel could be successfully developed into a musical. Have them identify and define plot elements and moments of character development they feel could be expressed effectively through song. Have students develop and present an outline of their musical’s story with song titles inserted at appropriate points.

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