On the night of March 25, the Princess Cruises’ 35,000-square-foot rehearsal facility in Valencia, Calif., came alive with the sound of music – the music of Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz.
Schwartz was in Valencia to deliver a taste of what’s to come out of his new deal with Princess Cruises, a first of its kind pact that see the three-time Oscar winner and composer of “Wicked,” “Pippin” and “Godspell” in a multiyear deal to oversee the creative development of four new musicals to debut across the line’s global fleet over the next four years.
Princess Cruises said it is out to change the perception of ship-board entertainment, and Schwartz was crackling to get started, thrilling the guests, including screenwriter and dramatist Winnie Holzman (who wrote the book for “Wicked”) and her husband Paul Dooley, with a sampling of his work, including “Day by Day,” sung by “NCIS: Los Angeles” regular Barrett Foa and “Godspell” alum, and “Popular,” sung by Jill Whelan – the “Love Boat” actress recently revived her singing career with a one-woman cabaret show — and Liz Callaway, who also performed a medley with Schwartz.
Clearly, this is a deal made in heaven: Princess Cruises entertainment marketing CMO Gordon Ho noted that guests rate high-quality Broadway entertainment high on their lists when shopping for a cruise. “Princess is a global cruise line, and Stephen Schwartz is a global brand,” he said.
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The first musical is “Magic to Do,” which incorporates some of Schwartz’s most famous songs with magic – of which the composer is a lifelong fan. He’ll also write a new song for the show, which debuts on the Crown Princess in the fall.
Schwartz noted that it’s really hard, even for someone with his pedigree, to get an original Broadway musical up and running, and the Princess Cruises deal gives him “freedom. … Princess has the facilities… I don’t have to raise the capital. I don’t think people realize how much freedom there is in that.”
Jim Steinmeyer, who has worked to create illusions with magicians including Doug Henning, Siegfried & Roy and David Copperfield, will create the magic experience in “Magic to Do.”
Other creatives on the show include director Gabriel Barre (“Amazing Grace”), lighting designer Ken Billington (the current production of “Chicago”), associate producer Don Frantz (“Beauty and the Beast”), music director Mark Hartman (“Sondheim on Sondheim”), choreographer Jennifer Paulson-Lee (“Seussical”), and production designer Jeremy Railton (2002 Winter Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies).