In this special July 4, 2023 episode, James Marino and Jan Simpson talk with Robert W. Schneider about his new book, “Fifty Key Stage Musicals.” This book is part of Jan Simpson’s 2023 Summer Reading list.
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Broadway & Me
Jan Simpson is a theater journalist who writes the blog Broadway & Me and hosts the BroadwayRadio podcasts Stagecraft and All The Drama. She has twice served as a Pulitzer Prize juror.
Fifty Key Stage Musicals Edited By Robert W. Schneider, Shannon Agnew
Robert W. Schneider (he/him/his) has been called a “renaissance man of the theatre” by his previous bio….which he wrote himself.
He is an award-winning Director, Producer, Author, Educator, and Podcast Host residing in New York City, where he is the Artistic Director of The J2 Spotlight Musical Theater Company. While he has been praised by many publications and media outlets, Robert’s greatest achievement is that he is always able to get three dipping sauces automatically added to all Burger King orders.
As Artistic Director of The J2 Spotlight Musical Theater Company, Robert directed their award-winning productions of Seesaw, A Class Act (1st NYC Revival), A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine (1st NYC Revival), and The Baker’s Wife, in which he collaborated with Stephen Schwartz on an intimate re-telling of the story. For their inaugural production of Seesaw, Robert received the Broadway World Award for Best Off-Off Broadway Musical and Director.
As a stage director, Robert has directed over 200 plays, musicals, readings, and workshops and has collaborated with such theatrical institutions as Second Stage, Lincoln Center, New York Philharmonic, Walnut Street Theater, Center Theater Group, MTC, and The York Theater.
Regional directing credits include the regional premiere of Memphis (Ovation Nom/StageSceneLA Winner for Best Director/Best Musical), The Last Five Years, City of Angels, Company, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, No, No, Nanette, A Man of No Importance, Spamalot, Lucky Stiff, The Drowsy Chaperone, Hairspray, Nine, and Merrily We Roll Along. He has served as an assistant to Lonny Price, Susan H. Schulman, and Richard Maltby, Jr.
Since working as an Original Programming Producer at the Tony Award winning Feinstein’s/54 Below, Robert has directed and produced over one hundred concerts for the venue and was nominated by Broadway World as Best Cabaret Director of the Decade (he lost to Faith Prince…I mean she has a Tony, so why she needed to take this away from him, he’ll never know). In this capacity, he has had the great pleasure creating most of the programs in their MAC Award winning 54 Sings series, including original cast reunions of Ain’t Misbehavin, Memphis, Curtains, Lennon, Eubie, A Broadway Musical, and concert presentations of musicals Golden Rainbow, Spamalot, How to Succeed In Business…, Woman of the Year, and The Happy Time, as well as creating their widely acclaimed series 54 Celebrates Broadway Theaters and Broadway Bound: The Shows That Never Came In. While working at 54 Below he has had the pleasure of collaborating with such artists as Ahrens and Flaherty, Strouse and Adams, Stephen Schwartz, John Kander, Joe Iconis, Marilyn Maye, Beth Leavel, Michael Feinstein, Len Cariou, Andre DeShields, Ken Page, Jane Lynch, Lewis Black, Jason Alexander, Darren Criss, Donna McKechnie, Priscilla Lopez, and many others.
For the past six years, audiences around the world have been introduced to Rob’s love of musical theatre through his podcast Behind The Curtain: Broadway’s Living Legends, where he interviews artists who have been working on Broadway for thirty plus years. Guests on the podcast have included Nathan Lane, Susan Stroman, Matthew Broderick, Lainie Kazan, Andre DeShields, Daphne Ruben-Vega, John Weidman, Lee Roy Reams, Joe Mantello, and Casey Nicholaw. When he asked Stephen Sondheim to be on the show, an excited Sondheim said “No!” Sondheim was then not asked to be on Rob’s other podcasts Gay Card Revoked, This Was a Thing, and Fifty Key Stage Musicals: The Podcast.
Despite finding every excuse imaginable not to go to classes in undergrad, including saying he had Elm Disease which apparently only trees get, it’s ironic that Robert is now one of the most notable figures in theatrical education and holds academic appointments at Pennsylvania State University, New York Film Academy, and Mount Union University.
He received his MFA in Direction for the Musical Theatre Stage from Pennsylvania State University and his BA in Political Science from California Lutheran University. Robert is a proud member of SDC, AEA, AGVA, ATHE and has a box at UPS.
This episode was recorded on June 29, 2023