Words Of Wisdom For The Writer from Stephen Schwartz – Part 2

Two weeks ago, I posted 20 bits of advice that I gleaned from my time with Stephen Schwartz last year during the Festival of Broadway. Today, I bring you Part 2!

Again, these thoughts are very much aimed at the writer/composer of musicals, so I hope you find them useful!

Words of Wisdom from Stephen Schwartz:  

  1. Who is the protagonist of the show – whose story are we meant to follow?
  2. What do you want to do with the music – who’s the target audience and how do you hit the widest market?
  3. When writing you need to discover what you’re going to leave out and keep in. Choice, by definition, restrict you – but you need to make them, and work within their constraints. Restricted choice is vital.
  4. When somebody wants something, they do something, and an effect occurs.
  5. Writing a show is a journey of discovery as you are writing.
  6. Is your lyric true to the character’s voice?
  7. People don’t care about the past, they care about the present.
  8. Writing musicals is a collaborative venture.
  9. Songs teach us who the characters are – they illuminate us.
  10. If you start a song at Point A, you cannot finish it at Point A.
  11. Aim for perfect rhymes when writing in musical theatre style – don’t be lazy when developing the rhyme scheme.
  12. Be specific in your songs – avoid ‘general-isms’.
  13. Make sure your opening number serves a purpose – it must make the story move forward.
  14. You need to maintain the audience’s interest in the show – you cannot afford to lose them at any stage.
  15. When you make the audience do work, they are engaged. Don’t tell them everything.
  16. Show the action, don’t “tell” it.
  17. What do I care about? Why should I care about your show? If you can’t answer that, you don’t have a show.
  18. You cannot introduce a second protagonist to solve a problem or create a “work around”.
  19. The more characters you have, the more chances of cliches you have.
  20. The more you have a character sing to someone, the better.

Well, I hope this has helped all you composers and writers out there!

Until next week,

Blog ya later!


Drew Lane

Andrew “Drew” Lane was born in Melbourne, and began playing piano at the age of four. At age 15, he began to write his own material, and was also introduced to musical theatre via shows such as Starlight Express, Les Miserables and Time. From that moment on, Drew was actively involved in musical theatre at a rehearsal pianist, musical director, or on stage performer. In 1992, Drew composed his first musical for high school, Back Streets, and in 1994, Drew was accepted into the Ballarat Academy of Performing Arts, where he honed his skills, not only as a composer, but also as a performer. Gaining valuable experience on stage and behind the scenes helped him to realise his next musical, Atlantis. A workshop production was staged for the Ballarat Opera Festival in 1996 and gained rave reviews. In the following years, Drew took up teaching but was also able to regularly composer and stage his own productions including Eva’s Wish (1997, Anacortes, WA, USA), Revelations (1998, Touring, Victoria, Australia), and Toys (1999, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia). In 2010, Drew's musical Marking Life was chosen to be part of the Festival of Broadway, hosted by the University of Tasmania, and was performed for Steven Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin). A prolific composer, Drew hopes to be able to take his musicals to Off-Broadway or the West End, and believes that his best writing is yet to come. He is presently completing his Master’s degree in Performing Arts, and has several new musicals presently in development. Drew is proud to be a regular contributor to AussieTheatre.com and looks forward to hearing from all of his readers!

Drew Lane

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