Although cruise entertainment has long been the butt of jokes, lines are investing in top content and bringing land talent to the seas to attract new and repeat cruisers.
It’s not unusual to hear of top entertainers getting their start on a cruise ship. On Thursday, the renowned composer of hits like “Godspell,” ”Wicked” and “Pippin” announced that he was going in the other direction: taking his talents from Broadway to a cruise line.
Composer Stephen Schwartz, who’s also won Oscars for his work on “Pocahontas” and “The Prince of Egypt,” said he will create four musicals to debut onboard Princess cruise ships. Princess Cruises called it a “first-of-its-kind cruise industry partnership” with such a big name from Broadway and Hollywood.
Schwartz acknowledged the temptation to mock cruise ship entertainment as mediocre but said he was impressed by the Broadway-quality venues and technical capabilities on the ships. He seemed to be genuinely enthusiastic about the possibilities, saying, “I saw it as an untapped resource and a great adventure.” Asked if he was doing it just for the money, he laughed and said, “It’s not that much money.”
Schwartz played some of his biggest hits — including “Day by Day” from “Godspell” and “Corner of the Sky” from “Pippin” — on piano at a Manhattan event announcing the partnership. On hand to sing as he played were Tony Award winners Ben Vereen and Debbie Gravitte, along with cabaret singer Scott Coulter. Gravitte got her start on a Princess ship. (Another famous singer who once worked in the cruise industry is Jennifer Hudson, who had a stint on a Disney ship.)
Schwartz’s new productions will open over the next few years on various Princess ships. The first musical, “Magic to Do,” will debut aboard the Crown Princess ship this fall, celebrating Schwartz’s “lifelong fascination with magic” and combining some of his most famous songs with a new song written for the show, according to Princess. Schwartz was involved in recent years in an effort to bring a show about the life of Harry Houdini to Broadway.
Cruise lines have turned to established Broadway shows for onboard entertainment before. Royal Caribbean cruises offer full-length productions of Broadway musicals “Cats,” ”Chicago,” ”Saturday Night Fever” and “Mamma Mia!” Guests on Norwegian Breakaway can see the shows “Rock of Ages” and “Burn the Floor.” Disney Cruise Line, meanwhile, is theming cruises on its hit movie “Frozen” this summer with themed deck parties, character meet-and-greets, menus and performances on select sailings. But this is different, with Schwartz involved in the casting, production and creation of new shows.
Others from the world of entertainment identified by Princess as part of the team producing the shows include Don Frantz, associate producer of “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway; Jeremy Railton, four-time Emmy winner with design credits for the 2002 Winter Olympics opening and closing ceremonies and the Academy Awards; Ken Billington, Tony Award-winning lighting designer; Mark Hartman, music director with Broadway credits including “Sondheim on Sondheim” and “Avenue Q”; and Jennifer Paulson-Lee, choreographer with credits including “101 Dalmatians” and “Seussical.”
Princess Cruises operates 18 ships and is owned by Carnival Corp.
Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
This article was written by Beth J. Harpaz and Beth J. Harpaz from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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Photo credit: In this Sept. 16, 2009 file photo, composer Stephen Schwartz poses in Santa Barbara, Calif. Schwartz, best known as the enormously successful composer behind "Godspell," "Pippin" and "Wicked," will create four musicals to debut onboard Princess cruise ships, the cruise line announced Thursday, March 12, 2015. Michael A. Mariant / AP Photo