Robert Lopez (born February 23, 1975) is an American songwriter of musicals, best known for co-creating The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q, and for composing the songs featured in the Disney animated film, Frozen. He is the youngest of only twelve people who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony Award, and the quickest (10 years) to win all four.
Robert Lopez was born in Manhattan to Frank and Katherine Lopez. He is partly of Filipino descent through his father, Frank; his paternal grandfather was Filipino and his paternal grandmother was Filipino and Scottish-American. His father eventually became director of publications for NYU Langone Medical Center.
Lopez spent much of his childhood in Greenwich Village, except for one year in Massachusetts while his father was working for Clark University. Upon their return to New York City when he was six years old, "it was a fluke" that he started piano lessons at Greenwich House Music School. The apartment they were subletting at the time happened to have a piano; his mother asked if he was interested in taking lessons, and he said yes. At age seven, his parents bought a piano for him, he saw his first Broadway show, and he wrote his first song. At age 11, he wrote his first opening number. At around age 12, he briefly drifted away from the piano and tried playing the saxophone, as well as taking courses in musical composition at other music schools.
Lopez went on to Hunter College High School and then to Yale University, where he graduated in 1997 with a B.A. in English (the type of academic degree expressly discussed in the second song of Avenue Q). While at Yale, he wrote three plays (of which two were musicals), was a member of the Yale Spizzwinks(?) a cappella group, and was influenced by professors such as Vincent Scully, John Hollander, and Harold Bloom. During his time at Yale, he vaguely hoped to make a living writing musicals and "had no [other] career options"; towards that end, he avoided courses that would prepare him for a career in something useful, like law or medicine.
Upon graduating from Yale, Lopez moved back in with his parents and brother in Greenwich Village, where he lived for four years until he was able to earn enough money writing songs for Theatreworks USA to rent an apartment of his own. During this period, he took temporary jobs at companies like Pfizer and worked as a weekend receptionist for his old music school, Greenwich House.
In 1998, while participating in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop, he met another aspiring songwriter, Jeff Marx. Their first project together, Kermit, Prince of Denmark, a Muppet parody of Hamlet, won the Kleban Award for lyrics, though The Jim Henson Company rejected the script, saying it did not have enough "kid appeal." The story was considered for the next Muppet film by Chris Curtin in 2004, until Curtin left the Disney Company. Highlights from the unproduced musical were performed by Rick Lyon, Rebecca Jones, and Susan Blackwell at the BMI Workshop.
In 1999, Lopez and Marx, who collaborated on both music and lyrics, began work on Avenue Q, a stage musical which, using puppet characters, similar to those on Sesame Street, dealt with adult themes and ideas. The show, for which Lopez also provided the animated segments, was his first professional experience. After playing Off-Broadway, the show transferred in July 2003 to Broadway's John Golden Theatre, where it proved both a critical and popular success, winning the 2004 Tony Award for Best Musical, and earning Lopez and Marx the Tony Award for Best Original Score. The Original Cast Recording was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2004.
In 2005, Lopez began working on a new musical project with his musical partner Jeff Marx, and with Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park, a series which, in 2003, Lopez had mentioned as a partial inspiration for Avenue Q. The Book of Mormon premiered on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on March 24, 2011, following previews from February 24. The show received numerous theater accolades, including the 2011 Tony for Best Musical, as well as two more Tony Awards for Lopez: Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical. The production's original cast recording also earned Lopez the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.
In early 2006, Lopez collaborated with his brother, Billy, on several episodes of the Nickelodeon series Wonder Pets, for which they shared a Daytime Emmy award with the series' other composers and Music Director, Jeffrey Lesser, in 2008. In January 2007, a musical adaptation of the Disney/Pixar film Finding Nemo, which Lopez co-wrote with his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, opened at Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park.
On January 18, 2007, Lopez and Marx again collaborated to write four of the songs for the hit TV show Scrubs on the show's 123rd episode titled "My Musical." TV Guide named the episode one of the best 100 TV show episodes of all time in 2009. Lopez, along with Jeff Marx, was recognized with an Emmy nomination for the song "Everything Comes Down to Poo" from the above-mentioned episode. Stephanie D'Abruzzo, who originated the roles of Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut in Avenue Q, guest-starred in the episode.
In 2011, Lopez again worked with Matt Stone and Trey Parker on the South Park episode "Broadway Bro Down".
Lopez also co-wrote two songs for the Disney Channel animated series Phineas and Ferb: "Aerial Area Rug" for the episode "Magic Carpet Ride" and "Fly On the Wall," for an episode of the same name.
Lopez composed a song for The Simpsons episode "A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again" titled "Enjoy It While You Can" which aired on April 29, 2012.
Lopez and his wife Kristen also wrote seven songs for Winnie the Pooh, released in 2011 by Walt Disney Animation Studios. They also wrote an original song for Wreck-It Ralph before it was cut out.
In 2013, Lopez and his wife Kristen wrote songs for Disney Animation's feature film Frozen. The song "Let It Go" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, making Lopez the 12th person to win all four major annual American entertainment awards (the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony). On February 8, 2015, they won another Grammy for their work on Frozen: a Best Song Written for Visual Media Grammy for "Let It Go".
In development for several years by Lopez and his wife, their romantic-comedy musical Up Here officially debuted August 9, 2015, at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego. Lopez describes Up Here as "It's kind of like Annie Hall meets Cirque du Soleil. It's a romantic comedy with a huge theatrical twist."
Lopez and his wife wrote the musical number Moving Pictures for the 87th Academy Awards.
It was announced in late 2015 that Lopez would be writing original songs for the revival of the cult comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Lopez and his wife are writing the music for the upcoming Disney film, Gigantic. The film is an animated retelling of "Jack and the Beanstalk".
During his participation in the 1998 Lehman Engel's Workshop, Robert Lopez met and began dating lyricist Kristen Anderson. As described in a 2003 The New York Times profile, the pair, struggling in a cash-strapped post-college period that recalls the storyline of Avenue Q's Princeton and Kate Monster, "live[d] in Astoria, Queens, [drove] a 1989 Buick and survive[d] on fast food".
The couple married in 2003 and they have two daughters; Katie and Annie, who both had voice parts in Frozen. They currently reside in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Awards and nominations
|2014||Best Original Song||"Let It Go"||Won|
|2012||Music in an Animated Feature Production||Winnie the Pooh||Nominated|
|2014||Music in an Animated Feature Production||Frozen||Won|
Critics' Choice Awards
|2014||Best Original Song||"Let It Go"||Won|
Daytime Emmy Award
|2008||Outstanding Music Direction and Composition||The Wonder Pets||Won|
|2010||Outstanding Music Direction and Composition||Won|
Drama Desk Award
|2003||Outstanding Lyrics||Avenue Q||Nominated|
|2011||Outstanding Lyrics||The Book of Mormon||Won|
Golden Globe Award
|2013||Best Original Song||"Let It Go"||Nominated|
|2005||Best Musical Theater Album||Avenue Q||Nominated|
|2012||Best Musical Theater Album||The Book of Mormon||Won|
|2015||Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media||Frozen||Won|
|Best Song Written for Visual Media||"Let It Go"||Won|
Primetime Emmy Award
|2007||Outstanding Music and Lyrics||Scrubs||Nominated|
|2015||Outstanding Music and Lyrics||The Comedians||Nominated|
|Outstanding Music and Lyrics||87th Academy Awards||Nominated|
|2004||Best Original Score||Avenue Q||Won|
|2011||Best Book of a Musical||The Book of Mormon||Won|
|Best Original Score||Won|