Ben Vereen, Debbie Gravitte & Music of Stephen Schwartz Set for Center for the Arts, 2/2
Ben Vereen, Debbie Gravitte, and Scott Coulter celebrate the incredible songbook of a legendary Broadway composer and lyricist in Defying Gravity: The Music of Stephen Schwartz at Pepperdine University's Smothers Theatre in Malibu on February 2 at 8 p.m.
Defying Gravity showcases the incredible songbook of one of Broadway's most successful composers and lyricists, Stephen Schwartz, featuring songs from his hit Broadway musicals Pippin, Godspell and Wicked, as well as the animated films Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Performed by Broadway veterans Ben Vereen, Debbie Gravitte, and Scott Coulter, the show includes renditions of Magic To Do, Just Around the Riverbend, Two's Company, West End Avenue, Meadowlark, As Long As You're Mine, In Whatever Time We Have, and, of course, Defying Gravity, among others.
Stephen Schwartz first hit it big in the theatre world with the title song for the play Butterflies Are Free, which went on to be used in the movie adaptation. In 1971, he wrote the music and new lyrics for Godspell, for which he won several awards including two Grammys. Schwartz went on to write the music and lyrics for Pippin, The Magic Show, The Baker's Wife, a one-act musical for children entitled Captain Louie, and Children of Eden, among others. Schwartz contributed four songs to a musical version of Studs Terkel's Working, which he also adapted and directed, winning the Drama Desk Award as best director. He then began working in film, collaborating with composer Alan Menken on the scores for the Disney animated features Pocahontas, for which he received two Academy Awards and another Grammy, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He also provided songs for DreamWorks' first animated feature, The Prince of Egypt, for which he won another Academy Award for the song "When You Believe." Schwartz provided music and lyrics for the original television musical, Geppetto, seen on The Wonderful World of Disney. Schwartz's most recent musical, Wicked, opened in the fall of 2003 and is currently running on Broadway.
On Broadway, Ben Vereen has starred in Wicked, Fosse, I'm Not Rappaport, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pippin, Grind, Jelly's Last Jam and A Christmas Carol. His role in Pippin garnered him both the prestigious Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for Best Actor in a Musical. While performing worldwide, Ben's continues to create memorable roles such as the unforgettable Chicken George in Roots and Louis Armstrong in Louis Armstrong - Chicago Style. For over 40 years, Ben has showcased his versatility and creativity, performing countless one-man shows in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.
Debbie Gravitte has had a varied career taking her from the Broadway Stage to the symphony hall and points between. She won the prestigious Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Jerome Robbin's Broadway along with a Drama Desk Award Nomination and the New York Showstopper Award. After making her Broadway debut in the original cast of They're Playing Our Song, she went on to appear in Perfectly Frank (Drama Desk Nomination), Zorba, Chicago, and LES MISERABLES, among others. Debbie has performed her nightclub act worldwide, and has sung with numerous symphony orchestras, including Boston Pops, Atlanta Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, San Diego Symphony, and the London, Aalborg and Birmingham Symphony Orchestras, among others. She recently returned to Carnegie Hall with Skitch Henderson and the New York Pops.
For his work in cabaret, Scott Coulter was awarded both the 2001 Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs (MAC) Award as well as the 2001 Bistro Award for Outstanding Male Vocalist. He received a 1997 Bistro Award for the revue Get Your Tickets Now! and his debut solo show won the 1998 MAC Award for Male Debut. Since 1997, Scott has performed around the country with award-winning songwriting duo Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich in their many revues. Scott toured the country as Jinx in Forever Plaid and was in the world premiere of Floyd Collins, directed by Tina Landau at the American Music Theatre Festival. His regional theatre credits include Into the Woods, In Trousers, Cotton Patch Gospel, Pump Boys and Dinettes, and As Bees in Honey Drown.
The Lisa Smith Wengler Center for the Arts at Pepperdine University provides high-quality activities for over 50,000 people from 664 zip codes annually through performances, rehearsals, museum exhibitions, and master classes. Located on Pepperdine's breathtaking Malibu campus overlooking the Pacific, the center serves as a hub for the arts, uniquely linking professional guest artists with Pepperdine students as well as patrons from surrounding Southern California communities. Facilities include the 450-seat Smothers Theatre, the 118-seat Raitt Recital Hall, the "black box" Helen E. Lindhurst Theatre, and the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art.