Wicked composer Stephen Schwartz has hailed UK musical theatre performers as “the best actors in the world”, claiming that any snobbery aimed at them is “mistaken”.
Schwartz has recently been in London to launch his new musical The Prince of Egypt, which will open at the Dominion Theatre next year.
He told The Stage that developing and premiering the show in London had meant he and the creative team had been able to make use of exceptional talent.
“We are so happy to be developing the show here because we get to work with the best actors in the world. It’s a story with a lot of nuance and depth and complexity within the relationships, and therefore we really need good actors as well as people who can sing as well as this cast does,” he said, adding there is an “abundance of triple-threat talent here in London”.
Schwartz said the US had “good actors” but said it was “pretty well acknowledged that British actors in London theatre are probably the best actors in the English-speaking world”.
The composer, whose work includes Pippin and Godspell, said he had not experienced snobbery towards musical theatre in the UK, but added: “If there are people not respecting the artists who do these performances they are mistaken. The ability to do all these things well takes enormous technical skill – and physical skill like athletes, especially in a show as physical as The Prince of Egypt.”
Schwartz said musical theatre actors “bring truth and depth to the roles as if they are doing Pinter or Shakespeare”.
“To have those sorts of chops – which British actors must have – I think they deserve all the respect in the world,” he said.
Speaking at the launch of The Prince of Egypt, Chris Herzberger, senior vice president of Universal Theatrical Group, also spoke about the importance of diversity on stage and how the production team had sought diversity in the show’s casting.
He told The Stage: “We want the world to be reflected on that stage. I think about how many young people will see The Prince of Egypt as their first stage show, so for them to have an opportunity to look at the stage and see someone who looks like them could inspire so much.
“Whether that is a career in theatre, who knows? But I think we will have a lot of people walk away feeling it was an evening for them and not just for someone else.”