Spotlight on Songwriting Team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul Of 'Dear Evan Hansen' And 'La La Land'

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul recently won a Tony Award for Best Original Score for Dear Evan Hansen. In February 2017, they also won an Oscar for the music from La La Land.

What was the first Broadway show you ever saw?

Benj Pasek: When I was eleven years old, I saw The Lion King and Rent, two very different shows. That double whammy got me into theater in a deep way. I went with my family and remember The Lion King being magical. The animals were coming through the aisles. I thought the possibility of what theater can be is amazing. And then Rent was the show that changed my life. It had representation of people who I saw myself in — gay characters on stage. I was a young kid who was questioning my identity and feeling alone and a little bit lost in the world. To see yourself portrayed on stage, with a celebrated hero or a complicated story where you are loved and where issues of love are addressed, is a really beautiful thing. It makes you think about how representation on stage is for every creed, color, religion and sexual orientation.

Justin Paul: Cats was the first Broadway show I ever saw. I was nine-years-old and seeing it with my family. It really altered my perspective of Broadway shows. Because in Cats the actors come into the aisles. I remember there was a woman nudging her head against my knee acting like a cat. I thought, Broadway is amazing. People are singing and dancing and then they come into the aisles, touch and talk to you. It was a whole interactive experience.

How do you deal with writers' block?

Justin Paul, Cynthia Erivo, Benj Pasek and John Legend backstage at the 2017 Tony Awards
Justin Paul, Cynthia Erivo, Benj Pasek and John Legend backstage at the 2017 Tony Awards
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