Skip to main content

Schwartz Songs


Stephen Schwartz is probably most famous for “Wicked,” still at the Apollo Victoria Theatre after almost 20 years. “Godspell” brought him to our attention, “Pippin” made him loved, and as lyricist he has contributed to countless memorable songs including “Colours of the Wind” from “Pocahontas.”  

This album draws together some of his best material, engaging some of the best musical theatre performers to sing it.

Four Wicked West End icons share the opening track. Kerry Ellis, Lucie Jones, Rachel Tucker and Alice Fearn pool years of experience “Defying Gravity.” From a seductively quiet first verse the layers mesh as the song opens out into a four-part belter.

Jamie Muscato follows with a surprising “Corner of the Sky” from “Pippin” – Schwartz’s 1972 hit after “Godspell.” A frequently used audition song in musical theatre, this is far more upbeat - a single guitar giving way to an excitingly fast cabaret rendition.

The monkey saw the original “Children of Eden,” full of good songs, but a weak book, as it recalls. Alice Fearn takes gospel number “Ain’t It Good,” the beat breathing new life into the lyric.

Something else for Schwartz collectors follows. “My Fairy Tale” was commissioned to mark 200 years of Hans Christian Andersen in Denmark. Peter Joback tackles “On Wings of a Swan,” a number the monkey was unaware of. There’s more than a hint of Disney in the lyric and presentation. A sweet flight of childhood fantasy with an attractive image of “tea-time on a star,” propelled there by means of the title.

An unashamed Samantha Barks fan, the Disney Queen takes on “Colours of the Wind” from “Pocahontas” and nails it with a perfect expressiveness. Every colour painted and a lesson well delivered.

“Let There Be” from “Children of Eden” is one of the best numbers from the show, John Owen-Jones wrapping his rich voice around every word as he creates the universe, backed by a choir suited to “The Messiah” (pun intended) in a stellar orchestration.

Back to arguably Schwartz’s biggest hit show, and Rachel Tucker having more fun than even the composer thought possible on “The Wizard and I” as her Palladium-stopping voice just lets rip, acting out every word so it hits the back of the upper circle without breaking sweat.

Interesting casting brings Jordan Luke Gage and Rob Houchen together for “On the Willows,” the penultimate number from “Godspell.” Excellent guitar backing allows the pair to reflect on how to spread the gospel they have been charged with. The charm of their voices suggest a way.

The song which a producer wanted out of his show so badly he threatened to poison the birdseed, “Meadowlark” from “The Baker’s Wife” is another musical theatre audition standard choice, Patti Lupone’s calling card and a chance here for Louise Dearman to strip it back to absolute basics. Finding a compelling new clarity, it is a fairytale for children, a cautionary one for adults and most of all a deep examination of personal morality in the face of romantic dilemma.

“The Prince of Egypt” had a run split and somewhat truncated by the Pandemic. Hiba Elchike gets to “Deliver Us” in the first of two numbers from the show here. A song more visual than most on this album, the roughness of the choral work is in contrast to Elchikhe’s caramel vocal cutting through the granite.

Back for the third of four visits to “Godspell” with “Beautiful City” – introduced to the stage revival after being originally written for the film version. Oliver Tompsett sells a dream which incidentally reassured America after the horrors of 9/11. A beautiful lyric, Tompsett surfing a wave of cream on it.

Another unfamiliar track to most, monkey included, “Forgiven Embrace” is from a 2002 pop album “Uncharted Territory.” Jamie Lambert instructs us in understanding, in a song which feels like it should be from a show about overcoming a troubled childhood through therapy. Certainly one for Lambert’s own stage repertoire, and many others who hear it will want to include it in theirs too, after this.

Back to “Children of Eden” and one of the strongest numbers in the show, “Lost In The Wilderness” – a cry for help from Billy Luke Nevers. Given a completely different pop / jazz arrangement, the tempo is quick and reckless, the singer fresh and compelling.

Final visit to “Godspell” as Rachel John delivers “Oh, Bless The Lord My Soul” with her usual high-impact stage abilities. Backed by a chorus, it is another cautionary tale gospel delivered by a master of the craft.

The lovely “Children of the Wind” from “Rags” has Emma Kingston in refugee mode. The tale of so many who found a new life in a new land through working in the New York garment district, Kingston has an instant empathy with their situation. She brings out the alienation, the relief tinged with anxiety and a sense of loss – trapped between old and new worlds.

Concluding the album, the powerhouses Marisha Wallace and Trevor Dion Nicholas storm through that much loved TV talent show number “When You Believe” from “The Prince of Egypt.” Taking individual verses and duetting, the voices match and blend to finally produce a smooth version of the song, rather than overly brassy interpretations television often gives us.

This album is not only an impressive review of one composer’s career, but also a reminder of the musical theatre performing talent of the past two decades. Many are connected irrevocably with Schwartz musicals, and here they demonstrate how well they understand and interpret numbers nobody who loves musical theatre will want to be without.


Back To Top