Westport's Justin Paul Amazing Season: From Dear Evan Hansen To Oscar

Pasek, Steven Levinson and Paul

Pasek, Steven Levinson and Paul

From January, 2017

There’s a moment in the Stephen Sondheim musical “Merrily We Roll Along” where the young songwriters in the story, best friends since high school, are about to start their career in New York City with trembling eagerness and hope and so aware of this profound moment in their lives. In “Our Time,” they sing: “Something is stirring/Shifting ground/It’s just begun/Edges are blurring/All around/And yesterday is done.”

It’s a favorite song of Justin Paul, 32, and Benj Pasek, 31, and it captures the spirit and moment they’re experiencing. After being labeled a promising songwriting team for years, they are at last riding a wave of acclaim on several high-profile projects. Most impressively is their acclaimed score to Broadway’s latest hit musical, “Dear Evan Hansen.” (“This gorgeous heartbreaker of a musical ... with a haunting score,” wrote the New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood.) 

The duo contributed lyrics to Hollywood’s first original live-action movie musical in decades, “La La Land,” a leading Oscar contender. On Jan. 8, Pasek and Paul took home Golden Globes, along with Justin Hurwitz — who wrote the music for “La La Land” — for the film’s “City of Stars,” as Best Original Song.

They have a song in the DreamWorks animated film, “Trolls.” Next year’s big movie musical, “The Greatest Showman,” starring Hugh Jackman, the biopic about Bridgeport’s P.T. Barnum, will have tunes written entirely by Pasek and Paul.

In a funky, wood-paneled room just off a Hell’s Kitchen studio in New York City, where the original cast album of “Dear Evan Hansen” was recorded, Paul talked about growing up in Westport, teaming up with his college pal and a long-ago visit to the Barnum Museum.