Tag Archives: Justin Paul

The Oscars: One More Encore

The Westport connections to “La La Land” just keep on coming.

Erik Feig

Erik Feig

In his Academy Award acceptance speech last night for Best Original Score, Justin Hurwitz — who wrote the music that Staples High School graduate Justin Paul helped pen the lyrics for — thanked Erik Feig.

He’s the president of Lionsgate’s motion picture group — and a “La La Land” production executive.

He’s also a Staples High School Class of 1988 graduate.

And … before we finish our Oscar stories (which are taking only slightly longer to post than the ceremony itself), here’s one more.

In a backstage interview last night — held while the awards were still being presented, which is why everyone spoke so quietly — Paul praised Staples Players director David Roth, and Coleytown Middle School director Ben Frimmer by name. That followed his prime-time shoutout to the arts education he received in his home town.

Click here for that video. (And scroll down — it’s the 2nd one).

The Oscars: The Sequel

“La La Land” won the Academy Award for Best Picture last night — until it didn’t.

But the old-fashioned, new-fangled musical about hopes and dreams still picked up an admirable 6 Oscars.

And — in addition to Staples High School graduate Justin Paul — there in Los Angeles to share in the glory was Westporter Joelle Berger. Her son Fred was a “La La Land” producer.

When she flew to California for the 89th annual ceremony, she did not go empty-handed.

Mom brought along a special treat: a chocolate creation of a scene from the movie, hand-crafted by Le Rouge owner Aarti Khosla.

Aarti Khosla's chocolate rendition of "La La Land."

Aarti Khosla’s chocolate rendition of “La La Land.”

Fred Berger had just finished his acceptance speech, when fellow producer Jordan Horowitz announced that, actually, “Moonlight” was the Oscar winner.

Publicly Fred, Justin and the rest of the cast were gracious winners/losers.

I have no idea what went on afterward, backstage. But hopefully they had a chance to drown their disappointment in chocolate.

Justin Paul Wins An Oscar — And Hails School Arts Programs

Justin Paul and his songwriting partner, Benj Pasek, won Oscars tonight for “City of Stars,” the signature song from “La La Land.” The lyricists were honored for another song — “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” — from the same film. So they had 40% of the category locked down.

The 2003 Staples High School graduate used part of his acceptance speech to give a shout-out to the importance of the arts for young people.

“I was educated in public schools, where arts and culture are valued,” Paul — a product of the Westport school system — said. At a time of pressure from STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) state requirements, as well as the possible elimination of the National Endowment of the Arts, Paul made sure to thank all the teachers who helped nurture him.

He did not mention them by name, but former Staples High School choral director Alice Lipson and current Staples Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long were enormous influences. So were Coleytown Middle School director Ben Frimmer, and Kevin Connors of Music Theatre of Connecticut.

Justin Paul at the Oscars.

Justin Paul at the Oscars.

Paul and Pasek’s Oscar is the latest in a string of awards for the young duo. Earlier this year, “City of Stars” earned a Golden Globe.

And that comes on the heels of the success of Broadway’s “Dear Evan Hansen,” for which they wrote the music and lyrics.

Congratulations Justin, from all your fans in Westport — this “town of stars.”

Justin Paul's Oscar acceptance speech.

Justin Paul’s Oscar acceptance speech.

Your Westport Guide To The Oscars

This Sunday, Westport’s eyes will be on Justin Paul. The 2003 Staples High School graduate and his songwriting partner Benj Pasek are up for 2 Academy Awards.  Two of their “La La Land” lyrics — “City of Stars” and “Audition” — have been nominated for “Best Song.”

A 2nd Westporter is also up for an Oscar. Nicholas Britell’s “Moonlight” is among 5 nominees for “Best Original Score.”

Paul — who with Pasek also wrote the music for the current Broadway smash “Dear Evan Hansen” — has gotten plenty of local publicity.

Yet despite winning a Westport Arts Horizon Award in 2012, Britell has gotten less press here.

Nicholas Britell.

Nicholas Britell.

A 1998 graduate of Hopkins School in New Haven (as well as Juilliard and Harvard), he’s a New York-based composer, pianist, and film producer.

He composed and arranged spiritual and work songs, violin performances and dance numbers for “12 Years a Slave,” among many other credits.

Yesterday’s New York Times described how Britell “chopped and screwed” classical music, giving the “Moonlight” score its “otherworldly sound.” Click here for the full story.

Here’s wishing good luck to both Justin Paul and Nicholas Britell on Sunday. Besides growing up in Westport a few years apart, they’ve got another connection: Damien Chazelle. He’s known today for directing “La La Land.” Four years ago, he directed “Whiplash.” The producer was Britell.

(Hat tips: Anne Rutherford and Jeff Wieser. Click here for a full list of nominees for Sunday’s Academy Awards. If you spot any other Westport connections, click “Comments” below!)

Move Over, “Hamilton.” Forget It, “Camelot.” “Dear Evan Hansen” Rocks.

“06880” could post stories every day about Justin Paul, and never run out of things to say.

We could, but we won’t.

Nevertheless, the latest news about the 2003 Staples High School graduate — who with his songwriting partner Benj Pasek is a Golden Globe winner, Oscar nominee, movie and stage and TV sensation, and basically the hottest thing on the musical theater horizon since Rodgers and Hammerstein — is pretty impressive.

The original cast recording of “Dear Evan Hansen” — a Broadway smash — debuted at #8 on the Billboard chart. That’s higher than any cast recording since 1961, when “Camelot” appeared for the 1st time at #4.

To answer your question: “Hamilton” first showed up at #12.

That’s today’s Justin Paul news. We’ll be back soon with more, for sure.

(Want your own “Dear Evan Hansen” cast recording? Click here!)

Justin Paul: Golden Globe Winner!

Justin Paul — the 2003 Staples High School graduate who, with his songwriting partner Benj Pasek, has taken both Broadway and Hollywood by storm — began 2017 the same way he ended 2016: with raves from critics and fans.

A few minutes ago in Beverly Hills, the duo earned a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song in a movie. The winner was “City of Stars,” from the hit film “La La Land.” Pasek and Paul wrote the lyrics; Justin Hurwitz wrote the music.

Paul did the honors, giving the acceptance speech.

Justin Paul (left) and Benj Pasek, moments after learning they'd won a Golden Globe for writing the lyrics to "La La Land."

Justin Paul (left) and Benj Pasek, moments after learning they’d won a Golden Globe for writing the lyrics to “La La Land.” (Photo/Rhonda Paul)

The Oscar nominees are not yet out. However, Pasek and Paul’s latest award gives them a leg up in that race.

And, of course, there are the Tony Awards in June. Perhaps you’ve heard of the songwriters’ other little project, “Dear Evan Hansen”?

(Hat tip: David Roth)

Justin Paul, His Best Friend, And The New York Times

“06880” has covered the career of Justin Paul extensively. All of us in Westport are intensely proud of the Broadway songwriter, who — with his musical partner Benj Pasek — has been called the next Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Now the New York Times has taken note too.

A long — loooong — cover story in this coming Sunday’s Theater section by Michael Paulson is headlined “What It’s Like to Make It in Showbiz With Your Best Friend.”

Justin Paul (right) and Benj Pasek.

Justin Paul (right) and Benj Pasek.

It begins:

They met at 18, the worst dancers in a college ballet class, and sought refuge in a basement practice room, taking a first stab at songwriting with a tune about adolescents playing hooky and footsie at a suburban diner.

They went viral before going viral was a thing — their undergraduate years coincided with the birth of Facebook, and the first song cycle Benj Pasek and Justin Paul wrote, called “Edges,” was discovered, shared and performed by musical theater majors around the country.

Now, at the age of 31, after a decade of being touted as promising, up-and-coming, and ones-to-watch, Pasek and Paul have arrived.

Ben Pasek (left) and Justin Paul, deep into their

Ben Pasek (left) and Justin Paul a few years ago, deep into their “24-Hour Musical.” (Photo by Kerry Long)

There are ample shoutouts to Westport:

They are, on the surface, quite different from each other. Mr. Paul, who lives in Harlem, is a churchgoing Christian from Westport, Conn.; straight; married; and the father of a 7-month-old daughter. Mr. Pasek, who grew up in Ardmore, Pa., and now lives on the Upper West Side, is gay, Jewish and single.

But they both began as little boys who loved to sing.

Mr. Paul, a talented pianist, started early. At age 3, he was singing gospel music with his father, a pastor, in church. Later, he sang and danced at senior centers with Music Theater of Connecticut; and then, at Staples High School, he performed in “Into the Woods,” conducted the orchestra in “Hello, Dolly!” and spent his free time poring over Broadway “fake books,” which help pianists master melodies.

There’s much more, of course. For the full story — and photos — click here.

(Hat tip: Tommy Greenwald)

Justin Paul (And Evan Hansen) Hit Broadway

Justin Paul is no stranger to Broadway.

Growing up in Westport, he saw plenty of shows on the Great White Way — and dreamed of getting there one day himself.

In 2012, he and his writing partner Benj Pasek made their Broadway debut with “A Christmas Story.”

Next month, the 2003 Staples grad is back. “Dear Evan Hansen” — the darkly funny show he and Pasek wrote that earned Obie, Outer Critics Circle and Helen Hayes Awards during its run at the Second Stage Theater — moves to the Music Box Theatre on 45th Street.

Previews begin on November 14. The official opening night is December 4.

Justin Paul (right) and Benj Pasek.

Justin Paul (right) and Benj Pasek.

It’s another feather in the cap of the young Westporter. It’s also a ton of work.

The move from a 299-seat theater to one seating 860 demands physical changes — tweaking and adjusting the set, staging and lighting.

It also forces the songwriters to look at ways to make the show “fuller, deeper and richer,” Paul says.

They’re adapting some lyrics, rearranging some music and honing the characters. Paul calls the changes “surgical.” It’s all part of the creative process.

dear-evan-hansen

“Dear Evan Hansen” is not your typical Broadway show. With the tagline “a new musical for the outsider in us all,” it focuses on a teenager who becomes involved in another teen’s tragedy. Pasek and Paul tell an important story, one nothing like the adventures of a lion or witches.

Though they’re 2 of the hottest young songwriters in the country, the duo did not set out to write “Dear Evan Hansen” as a Broadway show. They thought the subject matter would appeal to a non-profit company.

But they wanted the play to speak to more than their own generation of millennials. Director Michael Greif (“Rent,” “Next to Normal”) and their producer encouraged them to widen their lens.

The show is based in part on an incident at Pasek’s high school in Philadelphia. But Paul — who met his writing partner at the University of Michigan — also recalled another tragedy: 9/11.

He was a junior at Staples, and remembers the many raw emotions unleashed by that event in his school so close to New York City.

Now “Dear Evan Hansen” has transcended its small-house origins. It’s rare for an original show — not a book or movie adaption — to make the leap to Broadway.

But Westporters know that Justin Paul is a rare songwriter.

Soon, all of Broadway will know it too.

(For more information on “Dear Evan Hansen” — and tickets — click here. BONUS NEWS: Carol King reports that Pasek and Paul are writing the music for Disney’s upcoming remake of “Snow White.”)


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Pasek And Paul In “La La Land”

Broadway loves Pasek and Paul.

Songwriters Benj Pasek and 2003 Staples High School graduate Justin Paul have earned raves, for productions like “A Christmas Story,” “Dogfight” and — moving to Broadway this fall — “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Soon, Hollywood audiences will love Pasek and Paul too.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone sing their lyrics in “La La Land.” The musical — about a love story between a jazz pianist and a would-be actress — opens in movie theaters this December.

In the trailer below, Gosling sings “City of Stars.” The music is by Justin Hurwitz.

(Hat tip: Lynn Flaster)

Justin Paul: Back To Broadway!

Dear Evan Hansen” — the award-winning musical now finishing an off-Broadway run — is headed to the big stage.

When the darkly funny show — whose tagline is “a new musical for the outsider in us all” — opens at a Shubert theater in November, it will mark the 2nd Broadway credit for Justin Paul.

Justin Paul (right) and Benj Pasek.

Justin Paul (right) and Benj Pasek.

The 2003 Staples High School graduate, with songwriting partner Benj Pasek, made their debut in 2012 with “A Christmas Story.”

They’ve also earned critical acclaim with “Dogfight,” “Edges” and “James and the Giant Peach,” while their original songs have been featured on NBC’s “Smash.”

Pasek and Paul are graduates of the University of Michigan and winners of the 2007 Jonathan Larson Award, named after the late “Rent” composer, that honors achievement by composers, lyricists and librettists.

The young composers received an Obie for their work on “Dear Evan Hansen.” That show also earned an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical, and a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Musical.

Dear Evan Hansen - logo

(Hat tips: Carol King and David Roth)