Oscar nominees have roots in Waxhaw
Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014

Oscar nominees have roots in Waxhaw

Former Waxhaw resident Kristen Anderson-Lopez and her husband, Robert Lopez, are Oscar nominees for Best Original Song for “Let It Go” from Disney’s “Frozen.” Their daughters, Katie and Annie, both sang voice-over parts in the movie as well. The family is pictured here at their piano.

One of this year’s Oscar nominees has Waxhaw roots.

Kristen Anderson-Lopez and her husband, Robert “Bobby” Lopez, have been nominated for Best Original Song for “Let it Go,” a song in last year’s Disney movie “Frozen.”

Kristen is my oldest daughter.

“Frozen” has been a triumph for Disney, both at the box office and artistically. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ve seen that “Cinderella ” and “Sleeping Beauty” have evolved to embrace an appreciation of strong women. “Frozen” is, in fact, an animated musical.

Kristen and Robert wrote the songs. This is the third project the couple completed for Disney as a writing team.

They were married in October 2003. A year later, the pair undertook the job of creating “Finding Nemo-The Musical,” which opened in 2007 and is still performed five times a day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Fla.

They contributed several songs to Disney’s “Winnie the Pooh,” which was released in 2011; the couple then began to work on “Frozen.”

Robert Lopez is an award-winning composer and co-creator of Broadway hits “Avenue Q” and “The Book of Mormon.”

Kristen is a recipient of the Eugene O’Neill Prize. In 2011, the couple found themselves competing for the New York Drama Desk Award for Best Original Musical: He was up for “The Book of Mormon,” and she for “In Transit.”

As her father, I can say, “I knew her when … .”

We will skip the diaper and colic stories. It wasn’t too long after that she set her mind to all things theatrical. In 1976, I took her to a bicentennial musical tribute for America in our little prerevolutionary town of Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.

She was 4 years old. I watched her little face when the cast sang “Casey Jones” while doing a “chugga-chugga” dance number on the baseball diamond that served as an amphitheater.

After that, any opportunity to sing, act or create was her favorite way to spend her time.

Our family moved to Charlotte in 1986. Kristen wasn’t even there for a week before she successfully auditioned for a part in “Godspell” at Charlotte Children’s Theatre. She capped her high school stage career with a memorable performance as Mary Magdalene in “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

She graduated magna cum laude from Williams College in Massachusetts in 1994, where she was the first woman at the college to be elected by classmates as class speaker.

She came home to Waxhaw briefly after graduation and served a short stint as a very enthusiastic waitress in Ralph’s restaurant (now Momma Lena’s).

For the next decade, Kristen paid her dues. Her initial plan to make it on Broadway as a performer translated into several years of temporary jobs while going to many auditions.

During the “due-paying” years, she returned to Waxhaw for moral support, sympathy and “soft loans” – similar to those issued by the World Bank with the understanding they won’t be repaid anytime soon.

After marriage and joint and individual success, the couple now treat Waxhaw as a place for them to decompress and create away from the hustle of New York.

Their daughter, Katie, was born in 2005, followed by another daughter, Annie, in 2009.

Time will tell whether Kristen and Robert win the Oscar. Win or lose, though, they have created music that they can be proud of.

After all, “Let It Go” has been translated into 25 languages since the movie was launched just before Thanksgiving 2013.

Is there a lesson here?

“Follow your dream,” is easy to say – and much harder to do.

But in the case of the Lopez partners, we find living proof of the power of vision and tenacity in the pursuit of a dream.

John Anderson is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for John? Email him at jafortrel@aol.com.

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