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Forward 50 2017

Benj Pasek

Broadway And Hollywood’s Musical Wunderkind

Could Benj Pasek have had a better year?

As one half of the songwriting duo Pasek and Paul, with Justin Paul — they’ve worked together since 2006, when they were college freshmen — he won the 2017 Tony for best original score for the Broadway sensation “Dear Evan Hansen.”

He and Paul also wrote the lyrics for a little movie called “La La Land”; along with composer Justin Hurwitz, they snagged the Oscar for best original song for that film’s ballad, “City of Stars.” (Pasek thanked his mother for “let[ting] me quit the JCC soccer league to be in a school musical.”)

They have three movie musicals in the works, including live-action remakes of the Disney classics “Aladdin” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

And he met Beyoncé.

Through it all, the Philadelphia-born Pasek, 32, has made a point to celebrate his Jewish ties – headlining a benefit for a Jewish charity in his hometown, and hosting an untraditional Seder for Broadway performers, based on his memories of Passover celebrations in his living room growing up.

“Judaism is definitely a part of my identity and my life,” Pasek told the Jewish Exponent.

Whatever other projects Pasek and Paul add to their ever-growing schedule, you can be sure they will be emotionally complex — perhaps morally complex, to boot — but never maudlin.

“I think we’re attracted to material that’s hopeful and messy, and in that mess, there’s an attempt at getting at truth,” Pasek told The New York Times last year.

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