With seven Golden Globes, 14 Oscar nominations, and a hilariously accurate Saturday Night Live skit under its belt, it’s no understatement that the 2016 film La La Land is one of the biggest movie musical sensations in decades. But it’s the accoladed and accomplished young men behind the lyrics of director Damien Chazelle’s soaring cinematic masterpiece who are quickly rising to the top in both the film and Broadway industries alike.
Justin Pasek, 32, and Benj Paul, 31, are the composing duo responsible for the snappy lyrics to “Another Day of Sun” and the other La La Land songs you hope no one hears you singing in your car. The two self-proclaimed best friends met in college at University of Michigan at age 18, and from there began writing song cycles – their first being Edges, written in 2005. After college, Pasek and Paul’s debut as a Broadway song writing team came in 2010, when they signed on to the creative team for A Christmas Story: The Musical which premiered at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre and then later transferred to Broadway in 2012 with positive reviews and three Tony Award nominations. Around the same time, team’s next musical, Dogfight (based on the 1991 film of the same name), premiered Off Broadway in 2012 to, once again, a good amount of critical acclaim, gaining the pair a cult-following status in the theatre community.
Outside of La La Land, Pasek and Paul’s current composing endeavour is another Broadway musical, titled Dear Evan Hansen, about the titular high schooler who gets wrapped up in a lie surrounding another student’s death. Since its open in December 2016, critics and audiences alike have praised the show saying it could very well sweep the 2017 Tonys, with Pasek and Paul being some of the top contenders for the Best Original Score award. With the pair having just won a Golden Globe for La La Land as well as receiving two Oscar nominations, it wouldn’t come as a shock to see Pasek and Paul win the Tony based on their track record so far. Because they’re relatively new on the scene, Pasek and Paul are some of the first composers to utilize social media to their advantage when sharing their works, which has spread to Dear Evan Hansen’s marketing team, allowing them and Pasek and Paul themselves to engage in more intimate connections with their fans.
More than just La La Land, Pasek and Paul have planted their feet in the world of young new musical theatre composers, and are making it clear that they’re here to stay. The duo has proved themselves worthy of the theatre community’s acceptance time and time again, with lyrics that are relatable and complex throughout all of their works, and now the obvious success of Dear Evan Hansen, I’m confident in saying that the path ahead of these talented men is paved with more incredible and discussion worthy opportunities.