“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.
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 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)