Fil-Am Robert Lopez becomes 12th member of elite ‘EGOT’ circle

By , on March 3, 2014


The Lopezes accepting their first Academy Award. Screengrab from YouTube.
The Lopezes accepting their first Academy Award. Screengrab from YouTube.

 

An Emmy, a Grammy, a Tony, and on Sunday night—an Oscar.

Filipino-American songwriter Robert Lopez became the 12th member of the elite ‘EGOT’ circle after winning the best original song award for “Let It Go” from the blockbuster film “Frozen.”

Lopez now belongs to the ranks of Audrey Hepburn, Richard Rodgers, Mel Brooks, Helen Hayes, and John Gielgud—all of which have received an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony or simply an “EGOT.”

 

Pinoy Pride

“Pinoy pride!” Robert said in a backstage interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer after he won the Oscar over music industry big names like U2, Karen O, Spike Jonze, and Pharrell Williams.

“I’m so excited. I’m just sending love to the Philippines. I know they’ve had a tough year…” Lopez said, being the first Fil-Am to win an Oscar award.

“We are doing a concert for the Philippines. I believe it’s March 12th in New York City. A benefit [concert], and [we will] probably be singing something from ‘Frozen’,” Robert’s wife and co-writer Kristen Lopez said.

When asked about the husband and wife’s creative process, Kristen shared, “We both perform all the songs that we write… We create a demo in our tiny little studio, and then we play them for the directors and John Lasseter. John played the demo that had me singing ‘Let It Go’ in his car for months and months.”

Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee directed the movie and John Lasseter is Disney’s chief creative officer.

“We really thought of our kids when we were writing. We have two girls, just like Elsa and Anna, and we wanted to write a song that would instill in them the idea that shame and fear should not prevent them from being the magical people that they really are,” Robert said.

The couple dedicated their Academy Award to their two daughters, Katie and Annie.

Anna and Elsa are the two main characters in “Frozen,” which has become a worldwide sensation with over $1 billion in ticket sales. The soundtrack of the movie itself has gained equal popularity as well—true to Disney form.

“You don’t really comprehend something like that,” Kristen shared. “We wrote this song to tell a story. And we love musical stories, and you don’t imagine that it will spread this far. But every single day on my Facebook or on my Twitter, I get some kind of testimonial from somebody who says ‘this song kept me from committing suicide,’ or ‘this song got me through the cancer treatment for my kids’ and that is just so meaningful to us that our song can go and give hugs to people like that.”

The couple gave thanks to John Lasseter in their acceptance speech and even sang “Happy Oscars to you. Let’s do ‘Frozen 2.” to the tune of the birthday song.

The motion picture’s staggering success will now be tested on the Broadway stage, which brings Roberts and Kristen new waves of excitement.

“We are very excited to get started on the stage version. It will, by necessity, have more songs than the movie, so we can’t wait to reimagine it,” Robert pointed out.

Prior to the success of “Frozen,” already has two Daytime Emmys (for “The Wonder pets”), a Grammy (best musical theater album for “The Book of Mormon: Original Broadway Cast Recording”), and two Tony Awards (original score for “Avenue Q” and “The Book of Mormon”) under his belt.

Robert shared the credit with his “amazingly talented collaborators,” including his wife Kristen, “who has been in the background all of my work.”

Meanwhile, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, a Williams College alumnus, collaborated with her husband Robert, actress and singer/songwriter Zooey Deschanel, and Henry Jackman for the film “Winnie the Pooh” whose songs were nominated in the Annie Awards.

 

Tracing Roots

Robert was an English major from Yale University. Now, he uses his skills to create worded art to the tune of various accompaniments. But his story is much more than that.

“My story is interesting because my father (Frank), who was part-Filipino, was born on a ship on the way to the United States from Manila,” Robert shared with the Philippine Daily Inquirer prior to his Oscar win.

The ship Robert was talking about was reportedly the last GI ship that left Manila after World War II.

Kristen shared, “His father’s certificate had longitude and latitude on it, not a place but a spot in the ocean.”

“It’s a long story—she had divorced her husband and was trying to meet her father,” Robert said about her grandmother. “It must have been a crazy trip for (her).”

Kristen also pointed out that at the time Robert’s grandmother was taking care of a two-year-old child.

“She was a spark plug, a firecracker,” Robert said about his grandma, who passed away while the couple was writing songs for “Frozen.”

“Yes, it was a sad moment,” Robert said. “We had to stop work. We went up and stayed for the funeral. She was a wonderful woman.”

“It was an epic story that would really tie into ‘Let It Go’ a little bit. It was like leaving her past behind and going toward a place where she could use her power … ‘Let It Go,’ which we wrote in a day … became the cornerstone of the movie,” Kristen shared.

Robert almost visited the Philippines when “Avenue Q,” his Tony Award-winning masterpiece, premiered in the Philippines. But the birth of his masterpiece coincided with the birth another great creation—his second daughter.

“I never got to see (Avenue Q) there… At the time that the show was being done in the Philippines, we had our second daughter,” Robert said.

Hazel Anne Raymundo, a Filipino-American thespian, appeared in “Avenue Q.”

To keep in touch with his Filipino heritage, Robert and his family live in a Filipino-American community in New York.

“I’ve had a lot of connection with the Filipino-American organizations in New York,” Robert said. “I’m connected with the artistic community. It’s a musical culture. I feel like there’s got to be something in there that came to me, even though neither my mom (Katherine) nor my dad are particularly musical. But I have so many Filipino friends who are amazing singers, writers and composers.”

 

Truly the “place where dreams come true”

Robert and Kristen met in Disneyland, which is a testament to the theme park’s slogan: “The place where dreams come true.”

They first met when they both collaborated for the Disney live show “Finding Nemo: The Musical” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

“It’s funny. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman met in the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, which is for aspiring songwriters—where you can learn your craft and try out songs for an audience. That’s where we met, too, and started dating,” Robert mused.

Kristen, on the other hand, gave a more interesting version of how they first met.

“He was actually doing his first song for ‘Avenue Q’ in a concert (during the workshop),” she smiled. “He had gotten hurt. He’d been bitten by the dog of (his ‘Avenue Q’) songwriter-partner Jeff Marx’s boyfriend. So he couldn’t play. He was wearing a red yarn wig. He came out and sang a song called, ‘Tear It Up and Throw It Away.’”

When asked about Robert’s Filipino side that Kristen liked the most, the wife almost blushed after saying, “Oh my gosh, don’t get me started on his sexy Filipino… What is wonderful about Bobby is, because he’s part-Filipino, he’s always been trying to figure out who he is, what his place is. That’s where his art comes from. He’s attracted to characters who aren’t sure where they belong. That’s a wonderful place to create art from, I think.”

The couple is currently busy with their new musical, “Up Here,” which will premiere summer 2014. Robert described “Up Here” as “kind of like ‘Annie Hall’ meets Cirque du Soleil.”

Alex Timbers, who also produced the David Byrne musical about Imelda Marcos “Here Lies Love,” will direct the couple’s summer musical.

With report from Kristine Sabillo, INQUIRER.net