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The Jews Write Christmas Again

With the new Broadway musical A Christmas Story, songwriter Benj Pasek continues a storied tradition

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Eddie Korbich (standing center), Johnny Rabe (seated center), and company in A Christmas Story, The Musical. (Carol Rosegg)

That Jews wrote many of the most beloved Christmas songs in the holiday songbook is no secret. “White Christmas,” by Irving Berlin, is perhaps the best-known example, but there are countless others, including “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (Johnny Marks), and “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” (lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne). At age 27, Benj Pasek is now in a position to add his name to that illustrious lineage. Pasek is one half of the songwriting team Pasek & Paul. The two met as undergraduates at the University of Michigan, where they wrote their first production, a song cycle about twenty-something confusion called Edges. Several co-productions later, they were brought on to write the music and lyrics to A Christmas Story, adapted from the 1983 blockbuster movie. The show is now on Broadway and has been delighting crowds and critics alike. Pasek speaks with Vox Tablet about how he and partner Justin Paul collaborate, about his own relationship to Christmas, and about his aspirations to apply his musical-theater talents to create more contemporary expressions of Jewish communal life. Guest host Rebecca Soffer, a New York-based writer and producer, is a former Colbert Report producer. Most recently she was the national network coordinator at Reboot. [Running time: 23:06.] 

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Mary’s Boy Child LyricsMary’s boy child Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day.
And man will live for evermore because of Christmas Day.

Long time ago in Bethlehem so the Holy Bible said
Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day.

Hark now hear the angels sing a king was born today
And man will live for evermore because of Christmas Day.
Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day.

While shepherds watch their flocks by night,
they see a bright new shining star,
they hear a choir sing a song, the music seemed to come from afar.

Hark, now hear the angels sing, a king was born today,
And man will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day.

For a moment the world was aglow, all the bells rang out
there were tears of joy and laughter, people shouted
“let everyone know, there is hope for all to find peace”.

Now Joseph and his wife, Mary, came to Bethlehem that night,
they found no place to bear her child, not a single room was in sight.

And then they found a little nook in a stable all forlorn,
and in a manger cold and dark, Mary’s little boy was born.

Hark, now hear the angels sing, a king was born today,
And man will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day.
Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ, was born on Christmas Day.

Oh a moment still worth was a glow, all the bells rang out
there were tears of joy and laughter, people shouted
“let everyone know, there is hope for all to find peace”.

sedaliasteve says:

Oh Oh! Garrison Keillor will now have more songs to kvetch about.

Some great catchy tunes, how wonderful it would be if they would write Hanukkah songs.

Lisa Grissom says:

great interview! love hearing about the creative process and how moments of inspiration are expressed in song.

Amazing interview! Great job!

Maureen says:

Really engaging interview. Can’t wait to take my niece to see this musical. Love all the insight. Thank you!

Amazing to hear, in one interview, the words, A Christmas Story, Torah Study, the Talmud, music, Jews and songwriting. And it all worked together. These words of praise have little to do with the fact that I, too, live on the Main Line. Never knew Ben but I’m happy he seems to have a great career ahead of him.

Melinda says:

This was a fantastic listen. I enjoyed the lighthearted and candid dialogue about Benj’s path to success and how his upbringing influenced him as an artist. Being a fan of the movie it was a treat to hear what inspired the music to the show. I found myself smiling throughout the interview. Thank you!

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The Jews Write Christmas Again

With the new Broadway musical A Christmas Story, songwriter Benj Pasek continues a storied tradition

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