"Defying Gravity" is the authorized biography of the incredibly talented Stephen Schwartz the composer and lyricist of such hit shows as Godspell, Pippin, Children of Eden and a little global phenomenon you may know called "Wicked". The author's love and respect for the art form is apparant in every page. The book is written in an extremely fresh, balanced and informative manner. Apart from packing in lots of extremely interesting interviews, stories and background to Mr. Schwartz's career there is also the fascinating, behind the scenes story of the creation of "Wicked".
For fans of the show (and you know who you are) this is a unique opportunity to follow a major theatrical event from first drafts to opening night. Fans will love reading about the writing process, the rehearsals and eventual worlwide success. Author Carol De Giere follows the shows journey and has lifted the curtain on this emerald city musical allowing fans a rare insight into the creative process and work that go into creating a hit musical!
The book will appeal to both fans of Stephen Schwartz and those interested in how this most collaborative of art forms springs to life. Carol De Giere poses insightful questions into where good ideas come from, the importance of workshopping, team work, learning from mistakes and picking production teams with clear visions. If anyone is about to embark on writing a musical after reading this you will be much better informed on how to create a coherent, strong show whilst avoiding some pitfalls.
This is one of those rare theatre books that is entertaining, detailed and accomplished. After reading it it made me want to see Mr. Schwartz's other shows and re-visit "Wicked". If a theatre book can encourage audiences into a theatre then it must be good! Musical theatre books rarely capture both the pain and excitement of creation. This book certainly does.
A wickedly wonderful read.
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Defying Gravity is a thoroughly researched work tracing Stephen Schwartz's varied career culminating in a highly detailed look at the global phenomenom "Wicked" which acocunts for approximately a third of the whole book.
I approached this book with the main focus of attention being Wicked & the songwriter's work with Disney but I found myself quickly engrossed in his story from the very beginning despite having little prior knowledge of his previous successes (and indeed more often failures). The early stages of the book are entertaining enough to provide a reader with little or no interest in Schwartz's musicals a decent read although perhaps the chapters following the making of Wicked may be a little too in-depth for non-fans.
I was surprised at how easily this book read as I wasn't particularly looking forward to the earlier chapters but the autobiographical content of his story alone makes for a good read. The "Creativity Notes & Extras" do steer the book away from your standard autobiography but on the whole this is a good thing. Wicked fans will devour Pages 271 through to 435 and there are enough things previously un-recorded to satisfy most enthusiasts including a fascinating first draft which is understandably very different to the show now seen by millions.
The only negatives that perhaps prevent me from awarding the book a full 5 out of 5 are that colour photographs would have been perfect & I found it incredibly frustrating that the "Wicked" story really stops at it's Broadway opening. What about London, Germany, tours etc, the accolades it's since received and just the success story in general ? Nit-picking perhaps but I felt this would have been a perfect end, if only for another 10 or 20 pages as you always hear how much of a show's ongoing success is in keeping things fresh.
All in all a great read & if you're a fan of Wicked, pick up a copy of this & The Grimmerie & you're in for a complete behind-the-scenes treat
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The process of how an original musical goes from the initial idea to full realisation on the Broadway stage is always a fascinating one, and this behind-the-scenes look at Stephen Schwartz's career is a welcome addition to other such books on the subject.
For a first-time writer, Carol De Giere does an excellent job in charting the development of Schwartz as a writer and collaborator, as well as teasing out the stories behind each of his major stage and screen projects. Each section of the book includes fascinating details and anecdotes on how Schwartz became involved with each project, how he met and interacted with his collaborators, how specific songs were thrown out and replaced overnight, and more besides.
De Giere's prose style is very accessible; she captures many of the technical details of professional theatre operating on Broadway but also lightens it with personal touches from the people involved. Her interview subjects, particularly Schwartz with whom she has a close working relationship, seem to open up to her and she portrays them candidly and without judgement.
Of additional interest are the cutaway sections in which Schwartz and some of his collaborators go into greater detail about their creative process. It's particularly fascinating to see how Schwartz prefers to craft his lyrics and melodies, where his ideas and influences come from, and how he determines where the songs in a story should be placed.
The only reason I've given the book four stars rather than five is because I only wish the sections on "Godspell", "Pippin", "Working", "Children of Eden" etc. were as long as the section on "Wicked". Naturally enough, "Wicked" is what most people will want to read about and so over half the book is devoted to it. Nonetheless, the section on "Wicked" is very fascinating, and what material there is on the other musicals is surprisingly in-depth, given the relatively little space.
Overall, an excellent, insightful and accessible read. If you are interested in the creation of musical theatre, or in Schwartz's work, or just in "Wicked" in general, then this will be a very welcome addition to your bookshelf.
I have been a fan of Stephen Schwartz's music for a long time having played in various pit bands and got to know his material quite well - Godspell especially and Children of Eden. But it was when I went to see Wicked when it first came to London that totally blew me away and made me realise what a genius he is. I compose music too so this book seemed ideal for me because it covered his history of all his shows and provides a helpful insight into how he works and creates his songs and music. This in itself is invaluable to me. The book goes into a lot of detail and has many contributions from the people who have worked with him over the years. It also shows that it was not all plain sailing. In fact, after the success of Godspell and the resurrection of Pippin, it went a bit pear shaped with The Bakers Wife and Working (both great musicals in my opinion) and he literally gave up work for three years. This just goes to show that the world of theatre is tough for everyone and it was actually good to know that even the most successful talented people have had their knocks. I really liked this book for all the info it provides. I have given it four stars instead of five purely because I would have preferred that it was an autobiography so that everything you read comes straight from the man himself. However, as an autobiography does not exist, this is the next best thing and it is a really great read. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who loves musical theatre and, especially the work of Stephen Schwartz.
I have already posted a review of this book on amazon.com, but I need to let you know that if you love all things Schwarzian, if Broadway floats your boat, then this well written, readable and thoroughly enjoyable book should already be in your basket!