Tag Archives: Pasek and 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.)

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.

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)

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)

Ages And Stages

In a modern version of “let’s put on a show!” Staples Players’ final production of 2011 is an original revue.

How else did fit dozens of talented performers — including many graduating seniors — onto the stage?

“Ages and Stages” — created by directors David Roth and Kerry Long, and Players alum Justin Paul — incorporates scenes and songs from over 2 dozen plays.

Part of the very talented "Ages and Stages" cast. (Photo/Kerry Long)

There are big dance numbers, comedy sketches, barbershop quartets — just about any kind of performance you can imagine.  Most are funny — very funny.

“The overarching theme is the ‘stages of life,'” Roth says.  “From birth and early childhood through adolescence to young adult dating and marriage to having babies — that’s the generational cycle that we’ll show.”

Included are songs by Paul (Staples 2003) and his writing partner Benj Pasek.  Bradley Jones (Staples 1975) — a dancer in the original “A Chorus Line” for many years — is staging a terrific dance number for Players.

(For a sneak preview of barbershop quartet members August Laska, Max Samuels, Clay Singer and Tyler Jent singing “Hello, Mary Lou,” click below.)

“Ages and Stages” will be produced in Staples’ Black Box Theater.

“It’s a very intimate space,” Roth notes.  “We’ve never done a large musical production there.  It’s a great space — but seats are limited.”

(Tickets for this weekend’s performances (Thursday, May 26, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, May 27, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 28, 4 and 8 p.m.) are available at StaplesPlayers.com.  Prices are $15 adults, $10 students, except for the final performance — a benefit for Save the Children‘s tornado relief effort — which is $25 adults, $15 students. 

In the words of performer Charlotte Weber, “This shows is about the normal cycle of life.  What people in the South are experiencing is definitely not normal.  We’re glad we can help provide a little relief to help other children experience the same joys and triumphs.

NOTE:  This show is rated “PG,” for some adult language.)