Tag Archives: Justin Paul

Justin Paul’s Next Oscar: P.T. Barnum?

2017 was quite a year for Justin Paul.

The 2003 Staples High School grad and his music writing partner, Benj Pasek, won an Oscar for “La La Land”‘s lyrics, and a Tony for “Dear Evan Hansen.”

The year is almost over. But the insanely talented duo have an ace up their sleeve:

P.T. Barnum.

Pasek and Paul contributed 11 original songs to “The Greatest Showman.” The 20th Century Fox film premieres December 20.

The Hollywood Reporter says they’ll be Oscar contenders — along with the likes of “Beauty and the Beast” (by Alan Menken and Tim Rice) and Sara Bareilles’ “Battle of the Sexes.”

Justin Paul at the Oscars.

The other day, Pasek and Paul took time out from rehearsals of Fox TV’s live musical “A Christmas Story” (December 17, with Maya Rudolph and Matthew Broderick — no, they never stop working) to talk to the Reporter.

Asked about “pushing the limits” with Hugh Jackman, Paul said:

We were, of course, intimidated because he’s such a master of musical theater, especially onscreen. But we were also inspired to write for a lead character that will be portrayed by Hugh, with all of his abilities and his vocal range and everything. It gives a songwriter such clear parameters of the playground, and with Hugh, it’s a really big one.

As for lessons learned from “La La Land,” he noted:

We view this as a window of time. Maybe it lasts for a while and maybe it doesn’t. The winds seem to shift sometimes, and we’ve obviously seen periods where people have really embraced musicals and periods where it’s really fallen out. But there are people who aren’t necessarily Broadway fanatics like we are, who still want to see a musical on Christmas with their families.

The former Staples Player and Orphenian star is no longer on stage. He explained:

As for all the [awards season] events, we definitely feel funny getting dressed up for something because we’re intentionally behind the scenes. There’s such a humbling neurosis that goes along with writing because no matter what you’ve done, the next time you go to write a song, you’re standing at a piano and there’s a high probability that you’ve struck out the first time you try, no matter what. That will never change.

(Click here to read the entire Hollywood Reporter interview.)

TEA Talk Sunday Explores Art, Social Change

Everyone knows about TED Talks.

But here in Westport, we’ve got TEA Talks.

The Westport Arts Advisory Committee’s annual TEA — that’s Thinkers Educators Artists — event is set for this Sunday (October 29, 2 p.m., Town Hall).

The topic is timely and relevant: Art and Social Change.

Three 20-minute conversations among Westport arts professionals will explore how artists working in theater, art, writing and music can move popular thought, or sway public opinion.

In a nod to today’s fraught times, they’ll ask (and hopefully answer): “Does it take difficult times or momentous events for artists to create work that is a form of political and social currency?”

In the late 1960s, Naiad Einsel’s “Save Cockenoe Now” posters were a local symbol of the intersection of art and social change.

Carole Schweid (actor/director, Play With Your Food) and Michael Barker (managing director, Westport Country Playhouse) will address theater’s historical role addressing social issues.

Miggs Burroughs (artist/graphic designer/no further introduction needed) and Mark Yurkiw (artist/entrerpreneur) will discuss the influence of visual art on social change.

Haris Durrani (Photo/Miggs Burroughs)

And John Dodig (former Staples principal) will chat with 2011 graduate Haris Durrani about the young writer’s fiction novella, “Technologies of the Self,” about the life of a young American Muslim after 9/11.

Durrani will also be presented with the Horizon Award, given annually by the Arts Advisory Committee to a Westport artist under the age of 32 who shows extraordinary accomplishment and potential.

Rounding out the afternoon are professional performances of songs expressing socially conscious messages, from yesterday (Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific”) and today (Pasek and Westport’s Justin Paul’s “Dear Evan Hansen.”)

A reception follows the intriguing TEA talks, at the Westport Historical Society across from Town Hall.

 

Justin Paul: Yesterday, And 2002

Last night was another big milestone for Justin Paul.

The 2003 Staples High School graduate and his writing partner Benj Pasek won a Tony Award for Best Original Score (“Dear Evan Hansen”). They shared another later in the evening, as the show was named Best Musical.

Before the ceremony, NY1 caught up with the white-hot duo on the red carpet. During the brief interview, Paul named David Roth (Staples High School), Ben Frimmer (Coleytown Middle School) and Kevin Connors (Music Theatre of Connecticut) as important influences while growing up.

Here’s the video:

Meanwhile, retired media teacher Jim Honeycutt unearthed this video of Paul as a senior, when he performed in Roth’s Staples Players production of “Merrily We Roll Along.”

Here’s his solo of “Growing Up.”

He certainly has!

Benj Pasek (left) and Justin Paul (3rd from left) celebrate at the Tonys last night with Paul’s wife Asher and Coleytown Middle School director Ben Frimmer.

(Hat tip: Hedi Ann Lieberman)

 

And The Tony Award For Best Original Score Goes To …

… who else?

Justin Paul capped a monster year with Broadway’s most prestigious honor, for the mega-smash “Dear Evan Hansen.”

The duo later shared another Tony, as the show was named Best Musical.

Earlier this winter, the 2003 Staples High School grad — and songwriting partner Benj Pasek — earned Oscars and Golden Globes for “City of Stars,” their signature song from “La La Land.”

There are many more awards to come, for the hottest young songwriters on stage and screen.

But chances are the former Staples Players star will never forget his first ones.

Justin Paul (left) and Benj Pasek, accepting their Tony Award tonight.

Hail To The Victors (And Justin Paul)

Saturday’s University of Michigan graduation ceremonies — coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the institution — caused a bit of controversy. Some students were disappointed there was no keynote speaker.

But everyone loved the entertainment.

Justin Paul — the Staples Class of 2003 alum — joined with songwriting partner (and fellow Michigan Bicentennial Alumni Award winner) Benj Pasek in a special musical performance.

The Oscar and Golden Globe Award winners — accompanied by UM School of Music Theater & Dance seniors — entertained the 10,758 graduates and many more family and friends with “Amaizing Blue Medley.” It included songs from the duo’s “La La Land” movie and “Dear Evan Hansen” Broadway smash, along with original references to UM.

(Earlier today, Pasek and Paul earned a Best Original Score Tony nomination, for “Hansen.”)

Click below for a video of the cold and windy but energetic event (which unfortunately omits the “Amaizing” pun in the graphics). Justin and Benj begin at the 2:30 mark.

Congrats to the UM graduates from Westport: Siri Andrews, Perri Cohen, Jonny Denowitz, Jen Dimitrief, Anna Fiolek, Louisa Freeman, Jason Hoving, Julia Kaner, DJ Petta, Rusty Schindler, Lily Seo and Bailey Valente.

(Hat tip: Westport 2nd selectman Avi Kaner — proud parent of 2017 University of Michigan grad Julia Kaner)

The view from the stage of the 109,000-seat stadium.

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!)