Jason Robert Brown

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Jason Robert Brown
JasonRobertBrown06.JPG
Brown in 2013
Background information
Born (1970-06-20) June 20, 1970 (age 48)
Ossining, New York, United States
Genres Musical theatre
Occupation(s) Composer, lyricist, playwright
Years active1985–present
Website jasonrobertbrown.com

Jason Robert Brown (born June 20, 1970) is an American musical theatre composer, lyricist, and playwright. Brown's music sensibility fuses pop-rock stylings with theatrical lyrics. [1] An accomplished pianist, Brown has often served as music director, conductor, orchestrator, and pianist for his own productions. He has won Tony Awards for his work on Parade and The Bridges of Madison County .

Musical theatre work that combines songs, music, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance

Musical theatre is a form of theatrical performance that combines songs, spoken dialogue, acting and dance. The story and emotional content of a musical – humor, pathos, love, anger – are communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an integrated whole. Although musical theatre overlaps with other theatrical forms like opera and dance, it may be distinguished by the equal importance given to the music as compared with the dialogue, movement and other elements. Since the early 20th century, musical theatre stage works have generally been called, simply, musicals.

Composer person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition

A composer is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music, instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms. A composer may create music in any music genre, including, for example, classical music, musical theatre, blues, folk music, jazz, and popular music. Composers often express their works in a written musical score using musical notation.

A lyricist or lyrist is a person who writes lyrics—words for songs—as opposed to a composer, who writes the song's melody.

Contents

Career

Brown grew up in the suburbs of New York City, and attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York for 2 years. [2] During summer, he attended French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts in Hancock, New York. He said Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Sunday in the Park with George were two of his biggest influences, and had it not been for them, he would have joined a rock band and tried to be Billy Joel. [3]

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Eastman School of Music American music school; the professional school of music of the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York

The Eastman School of Music is the professional school of music of the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York. It was established in 1921 by industrialist and philanthropist George Eastman.

Rochester, New York City in New York, United States

Rochester is a city on the southern shore of Lake Ontario in western New York. With a population of 208,046 residents, Rochester is the seat of Monroe County and the third most populous city in New York state, after New York City and Buffalo. The metropolitan area has a population of just over 1 million people. It is about 73 miles (117 km) east of Buffalo and 87 miles (140 km) west of Syracuse.

He began his career in New York City as an arranger, conductor, and pianist, working on shows such as William Finn's A New Brain , and playing at several nightclubs and piano bars in the city. Songs for a New World marked the first major New York production of Brown's songs. An off-Broadway revue with a limited run, the show was directed by Daisy Prince, daughter of director/producer Hal Prince, and featured the 25-year-old Brown's pop-rock-influenced music. [4] The song "Stars and the Moon" has since become a cabaret standard, and is probably Brown's best-known composition to date. [5]

William Finn American composer

William Alan Finn is an American composer and lyricist of musicals. He is known for his musical Falsettos which received the 1992 Tony Award for Best Original Score as well as the 1992 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical.

<i>A New Brain</i> musical

A New Brain is a musical with music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Finn and James Lapine. Though many of Finn's previous musicals were to some extent autobiographical, A New Brain dealt directly with his own harrowing experience with an arteriovenous malformation and the healing power of art. The hero of the musical, Gordon Schwinn, worries that he may not live to complete his work. Finn wrote many of the songs soon after his release from the hospital. The musical premiered Off-Broadway in 1998 and has been revived in the U.S., England and elsewhere.

<i>Songs for a New World</i> musical

Songs for a New World is a work of musical theatre written and composed by Jason Robert Brown. This was Jason Robert Brown's first produced show, originally produced Off-Broadway at the WPA Theatre in 1995. Brown and director Daisy Prince put together songs he had written for other venues and events, resulting in "neither musical play nor revue, it is closer to a theatrical song cycle, a very theatrical song cycle."

Brown was subsequently hired to write songs for the Broadway musical Parade , based on the trial and lynching of Leo Frank, after meeting Hal Prince. Parade, directed by Prince and with a book by Alfred Uhry, won Brown the 1999 Tony Award for Best Original Score. [6] During this production, Livent, one of the producers of Parade, pulled out after reviews were not as positive as they'd hoped. RCA Victor, the other major producer, decided it would pull out as well. Brown said of the event in 1999, "Livent dropped out shortly after the reviews came out. They announced they would not spend another dime on the show. RCA had an agreement to record all of Livent's shows. But when Livent pulled out of 'Parade,' the RCA higher-ups said they were pulling out, too. I had to go to Billy Rosenfield and ask him: 'What if we pay for this record and you just distribute it?' Billy said, 'Sure.'" Brown had to try to scrounge money from every corner, "In the end, RCA put in $25,000, Lincoln Center put in a big chunk, around $200,000, including the producer Scott Rudin's $25,000, and there was a contribution from the Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla foundation, which has helped support a lot of musical theatre composers over the years, of $40,000. Even Roy Furman, the new guy at Livent, gave us a little money. Somehow, we pulled it together." Livent also was struggling at the time because the company had mishandled funds while applying for bankruptcy protection. [7]

<i>Parade</i> (musical) musical by Alfred Uhry (book) and Jason Robert Brown (music)

Parade is a musical with a book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1998 and won Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Original Score and six Drama Desk Awards. The show has had a U.S. national tour and numerous professional and amateur productions in both the U.S. and abroad.

Leo Frank American factory superintendent and lynching victim

Leo Max Frank was an American factory superintendent who was convicted in 1913 of the murder of a 13-year-old employee, Mary Phagan, in Atlanta, Georgia. His trial, conviction, and appeals attracted national attention. His lynching two years later, in response to the commutation of his sentence, became the focus of social, regional, political, and racial concerns, particularly regarding antisemitism. Today, the consensus of researchers on the subject holds that Frank was wrongly convicted.

Alfred Uhry American screenwriter

Alfred Fox Uhry is an American playwright and screenwriter. He has received an Academy Award, two Tony Awards and the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for dramatic writing for Driving Miss Daisy. He is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers.

Brown went back to working with Daisy Prince for his third major show The Last Five Years , for which he wrote the book as well as songs. Inspired by his own failed first marriage, the show is a two-person musical which tells the history of a relationship from two different perspectives. The male's narrative begins at the beginning of the story and progresses through marriage, infidelity, and divorce, while the female narrative begins at the end of the relationship and ends with the couple's first date; the two actors' only direct interaction takes place midpoint, during the wedding sequence. [8] The original Chicago cast consisted of Norbert Leo Butz and Lauren Kennedy, with Sherie Rene Scott over the New York run. The Last Five Years received mixed critical reviews and was not a commercial success, lasting only two months off-Broadway, although Brown garnered 2 Drama Desk Awards for music and lyrics. Additionally, due to the cast recording featuring Scott and Butz, the show has gained popularity among contemporary musical theatre aficionados and is an oft-performed piece in regional and community theatres. [9] [10] A film version of the show, featuring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan, was released in February 2015. [11]

<i>The Last Five Years</i> musical

The Last Five Years is a musical written by Jason Robert Brown. It premiered at Chicago's Northlight Theatre in 2001 and was then produced Off-Broadway in March 2002. Since then it has had numerous productions both in the United States and internationally.

Norbert Leo Butz American actor and singer

Norbert Leo Butz is an American actor and singer, best known for his work in Broadway theatre. He is a two-time winner of the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, and is one of only nine actors ever to have won the award twice as lead actor.

Lauren Kennedy American actress

Lauren Kennedy is an American actress, and singer who has performed numerous times on Broadway. She is now the producing artistic director of Theatre Raleigh in her home state of North Carolina.

Brown contributed several songs to the Broadway flop Urban Cowboy . He had worked as an orchestrator with director Phillip Oesterman on the Off-Broadway musical New York Rock , and Oesterman called on him to help him out with Urban Cowboy. Urban Cowboy had been denied the use of the Clint Black catalog, and Brown came in and wrote a few songs (with help from director Lonny Price, who replaced Oesterman after he died). [12] The show was nominated, with 30 other composers, for the 2003 Tony Award for best Musical Score, losing out to Hairspray. [6] [13]

<i>Urban Cowboy</i> (musical) musical

Urban Cowboy is a musical with a book by Aaron Latham and Phillip Oesterman and a score by Broadway composer-lyricists Jeff Blumenkrantz and Jason Robert Brown and a variety of country music tunesmiths, including Clint Black and Charlie Daniels.

<i>New York Rock</i> 1994 studio album / Original cast recording by Yoko Ono

New York Rock is an off-Broadway musical by Yoko Ono. It is a thinly veiled account of her life with John Lennon. The musical contains many songs from Ono's albums throughout the years, as well as several new tracks, "Warzone" and "Where Do We Go from Here", which were reworked for inclusion on Rising.

Clint Black country singer-songwriter

Clint Patrick Black is an American country music singer, songwriter, musician, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and actor. Signed to RCA Records in 1989, Black's debut album Killin' Time produced four straight number one singles on the US Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks charts. Although his momentum gradually slowed throughout the 1990s, Black consistently charted hit songs into the 2000s. He has had more than 30 singles on the US Billboard country charts, twenty-two of which have reached number one, in addition to having released twelve studio albums and several compilation albums. In 2003, Black founded his own record label, Equity Music Group. Black has also ventured into acting, having made a cameo appearance in the 1994 film Maverick, as well as a starring role in 1998's Still Holding On: The Legend of Cadillac Jack.

In June 2005, Brown released a solo album, entitled Wearing Someone Else's Clothes . [14]

In December 2005, his Chanukah Suite received its world premiere with two performances by the Los Angeles Master Chorale at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. [15]

He also teaches courses in musical theatre performance and composition at the University of Southern California. Brown is an active performer of his own work, singing and playing the piano with or without his band, the Caucasian Rhythm Kings (Gary Sieger, guitar, and Randy Landau, bass). [10]

Brown's tween-oriented musical 13 premiered at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, CA on January 7, 2007. It opened on Broadway October 5, 2008 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, and closed on January 4, 2009. [2] [6]

His Bridges of Madison County , a musical adaption of the film with Marsha Norman [16] premiered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival on August 1, 2013. Directed by Bartlett Sher, the cast featured Elena Shaddow as Francesca and Steven Pasquale. [17] The musical opened on Broadway on February 27, 2014, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, starring Kelli O'Hara as Francesca. [18]

According to Brown, Brian Lowdermilk used to be an assistant to him. [19] Brown has recently publicized his personal efforts to discourage the unauthorized online sharing of his copyrighted sheet music via an e-mail conversation with a teenager named Eleanor. [19]

Current projects

Brown at a 2013 CD signing with Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe, the cast of the 2013 off-Broadway revival of The Last Five Years. JasonRobertBrown07.JPG
Brown at a 2013 CD signing with Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe, the cast of the 2013 off-Broadway revival of The Last Five Years.

Current projects include adapting a French musical with Alfred Uhry for Kathleen Marshall, a screenplay for a film version of 13 , and releasing a solo album in the summer of 2011. [16] One of his songs, entitled "Another Life", is featured on Kelli O'Hara's 2011 album Always. [20] A film adaptation of his popular musical The Last Five Years starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan was completed in July 2013, first shown at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2014, and was released on Valentine's Day, 2015; the movie soundtrack on Sh-K-Boom Records was released February 10, 2015. [21] The film was directed by PS, I Love You director, Richard LaGravenese. [11]

Musical style

Brown has many trademarks in his composing style, which is often rhythmically dynamic and harmonically unconventional, calling for a wide vocal range. His vocal lines often include internal rhymes, as well as melodic phrases which do not adhere to a predictable 4-measure length. He favors songs in written in AABA' form, with some exceptions to this form in his show Parade. Perhaps most characteristic are his love duets; all five ("I'd Give it All for You" from Songs for a New World, "All the Wasted Time" from Parade, "The Next Ten Minutes" from The Last Five Years, "Tell Her" from 13, and "One Second And A Million Miles" from The Bridges of Madison County) are written in a very distinct format: male-female-both, compound time in the duet section (two using hemiola), and four of the five end with the couple singing the same pitch. [22]

Brown is cited by Mark Shenton as one of the leading new theatrical composers (a list that includes Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Guettel, Andrew Lippa, and Jeanine Tesori, among others). [23]

Personal life

Brown was born in Ossining, New York. He was raised Jewish. [24] He was previously married to Theresa O'Neil, and their failed marriage inspired his musical The Last Five Years . [25] Since 2003, Brown has been married to fellow composer Georgia Stitt. [26] Together, they have two daughters. [27]

Major works

Other works

Awards and nominations

YearAwardCategoryWorkResult
1999 Tony Award Best Original Score Parade Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding New Musical Won
Outstanding Music Won
Outstanding Lyrics Nominated
New York Drama Critics' Circle Award Best MusicalWon
2002 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Music The Last Five Years Won
Outstanding Lyrics Won
Outstanding Orchestrations Nominated
2009 Outstanding Lyrics 13 Nominated
2014 Tony Award Best Original Score The Bridges of Madison County Won
Best Orchestrations Won
Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Music Won
Outstanding Lyrics Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations Won
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding New ScoreWon
2015 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Music Honeymoon in Vegas Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations Nominated

Recordings

Original cast recordings were made for Songs for a New World, Parade,The Last Five Years,13, The Bridges of Madison County, and Honeymoon in Vegas. "Stars and the Moon" has been recorded many times, including on Audra McDonald's Way Back to Paradise and Betty Buckley's Stars and the Moon: Live at the Donmar. [5]

Actress Lauren Kennedy, who originated the role of Cathy in the Chicago production of The Last Five Years, released Songs of Jason Robert Brown, featuring Brown's compositions from his previous shows, as well as several previously unreleased songs. [32]

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