Andrew Sonntag and company
in The Stephen Schwartz Project
(© Colin Hovde)
Andrew Sonntag and company
in The Stephen Schwartz Project
(© Colin Hovde)
While a number of musical revues try to be extremely faithful to the composer's original vision, Michael Bobbitt is trying something a little different in The Stephen Schwartz Project, now making its world premiere at MetroStage in Alexandria, VA. "The premise of the show, for the most part, is to take his hit songs and reinvent them," says Bobbitt, the show's conceiver, director and choreographer. "For instance, 'Defying Gravity' from Wicked is mixed with 'Corner of the Sky' from Pippin and is a sort of Patti LaBelle-inspired quasi-Afrocentric take on it. We've turned 'Lion Tamer,' which is a sweet little ballad from The Magic Show, into a big band number. And 'On the Right Track' from Pippin is kind of a spoof of Tina Turner's 'Proud Mary."

Bobbitt is not doing this behind the composer's back. Schwartz has attended previous workshops of the piece, and given notes that were then dutifully incorporated into the finished product. "He's been extremely supportive," says Bobbitt. "We've been friends for years, and it's been great to get to know Stephen a little bit more through working on the show."

While the majority of the tunes incorporated into the production are recognizable hits from Schwartz's extensive musical theater oeuvre, Bobbitt and arranger John L. Cornelius III have also included some lesser-known songs, such as "Cold Enough to Snow," a collaboration with Alan Menken from the film Life With Mikey, and "Crowded Island" from one of Schwartz's songbooks. As far as the choreography goes, Bobbitt promises everything from waltz, to tango, to funk, to tap. "Stephen's songs have an accessible groove to them," he states. "And John also loves working with grooves. We've got nine talented young performers, and I'm working everything they know into the show -- and everything I know!"

While there are no definitive plans for future engagements, Bobbitt remains hopeful: "Stephen told me, 'Let's see what you've got at MetroStage and then we'll talk.' I sort of saw a twinkle in his eye when he said it, so I think he might be up for it."