If songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul win the original music and lyrics Emmy for their song in “A Christmas Story Live!”, they will attain the elusive EGOT status: that is, winning the four biggest honors in show business (the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards).
The two collaborators are nominated for “In the Market for a Miracle,” one of three new tunes they wrote for Fox’s Dec. 17 adaptation of their 2012 stage musical based on the holiday movie classic.
They previously won the 2016 song Oscar for “La La Land,” the 2017 Tony for their score for Broadway’s “Dear Evan Hansen” and the 2018 Grammy for the cast album for “Evan Hansen.”
Only 12 people in history have managed the EGOT feat, and just five of those were composers (including Richard Rodgers, Marvin Hamlisch and “Frozen’s” Robert Lopez). Plus, Pasek and Paul would be the youngest to manage the feat; both aged 33. Are they thinking about the possibility of entering this exclusive club?
“Only because people like you bring it up,” Paul tells Variety with a laugh. “As far as we know, it’s not an official thing. There’s no EGOT committee. It’s Wikipedia Official.”
“We certainly never write for the purpose of awards,” Paul adds. “I think it’s representative of a bigger thing that’s happening beyond us, which is that musical theater and that kind of songwriting is finding an audience across all mediums.
“These live television musicals — the latest being ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ which was phenomenal — are finding huge audiences. People are coming to see movie musicals, and Broadway is doing so well right now. What that means is, people are excited about musicals in all different formats. That’s really exciting for us.”
Their “Christmas Story” song was praised as a highlight of the Fox special. “In the Market for a Miracle” is sung by Mrs. Schwartz (Ana Gasteyer) as she tries to cheer up Ralphie (Andy Walken) — who is desperate to make his parents buy him a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas — and assures him that anything is possible, citing the miracle of Hanukkah (“when your days are growing dim, a light just might appear”).
Their inspiration was the fact that, in the 1983 movie, Ralphie’s best friend was a kid named Schwartz. “Nothing’s ever made of that,” Paul notes. So when they created the musical for Broadway, they added a scene that alluded to the Schwartz family visiting a Chinese restaurant on Dec. 25 (“There’s nothing more Jewish,” quips Pasek).
“We also wanted to make sure that the telecast felt universal,” Paul adds. “This show is kind of about Christmas, but it’s really about family, and how things are always crazy at the holidays. We thought this would be inclusive and fun.”
“What you remember 10, 20 or 30 years later is not when your family functions went well, it’s when they were zany and crazy and the turkey got burned, and it doesn’t really matter what religion you are,” says Paul. “Those are the funny stories we still tell; they become the family folklore. We wanted that to feel universal for everybody.”
During the years that the original “Christmas Story” musical was in development, Pasek recalls missing family Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur events while he was writing Yule tunes. “I was trying to rhyme ‘shelves’ with ‘elves’ while they were atoning for their sins,” he says.
Don’t look for any new songs from the duo for the rest of 2018. They have been collaborating with composer Alan Menken on additional songs for Disney’s live-action “Aladdin,” due in May 2019, and are working on Disney’s live-action adaptation of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (writing new songs, reworking old tunes, “creating a new adaptation,” says Paul) for which there is currently no date.
They are also launching the national tour of their Broadway hit “Dear Evan Hansen” and are co-authors of a young adult novel based on the musical; that’s due out in October.
The Emmy races contain three other potential EGOT achievements, all related to the aforementioned “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” on NBC: actor John Legend, who played Jesus, and the show’s creators, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, credited as producers on the show. All already have Grammys, Oscars and Tonys on their respective mantels.