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Bruce Coughlin (/ˈkɑːflɪn/ KAWF-lin) is an American orchestrator and musical arranger. He has won a Tony Award (out of 3 total nominations), a Drama Desk Award (out of 11 total nominations), and an Obie Award.

Bruce Coughlin
Musical arranger
Known forThe Light in the Piazza, Urinetown, Floyd Collins
The Grapes of Wrath, 27
StyleMusical theatre
AwardsTony Award for Best Orchestrations
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Orchestrations
Obie Award


Personal lifeEdit

He currently lives in the East Village, New York City.


After graduating from Dartmouth College Coughlin moved to New York City and worked as a composer for several years, primarily writing incidental music for plays and dance. Theaters he composed scores for include The Hartford Stage (Antony and Cleopatra),[1] BAM Theater Company (A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Winter’s Tale),[2] Denver Center Theater and many others.

He has said that composing did not suit his personality as well as orchestrating[3] and with the 1981 musical Is There Life After High School? (by Craig Carnelia and Jeffrey Kindley) he got the opportunity to move into writing orchestrations for the theater. He had been hired as musical director of the show, but was asked to also do orchestrations on the side. The show had a regional run at Hartford Stage in CT and a year later arrived on Broadway. It had a lengthy preview period at the Ethyl Barrymore Theatre but a short run of only 12 performances.[4] Despite what must have been a disappointing start to orchestrating for the theater the "side job" eventually became his primary focus.[3] Since that time he has orchestrated over 100 works for Broadway and other theater, opera, recordings and concert hall.[5]

After a period of working in the commercial world as a composer and arranger (for jingles and industrials), Coughlin came back to orchestrating for the theater with William Finn’s Romance In Hard Times at the Public Theater in 1989.[6] He continued to orchestrate various shows off-Broadway and in regional theaters (including William Bolcom’s Casino Paradise).[7]

His first big theater success was as orchestrator for Adam Guettel’s Floyd Collins in 1994, directed by Tina Landau. The show later played at Playwrights Horizons in New York (where he won an Obie award[8] for his work on that show). It had a short run but made a big impact on contemporary musical theater.[9][10][11]

Broadway and West EndEdit

Coughlin’s first Broadway orchestrations were for revivals of classic Broadway shows including the 1996 revival of The King and I, The Sound of Music (1998), and Once Upon A Mattress starring Sarah Jessica Parker. Later he also orchestrated revivals of On the Town and Annie Get Your Gun (starring Bernadette Peters).[12]

Original Broadway musicals he has orchestrated include Triumph of Love (starring Betty Buckley), The Wild Party (Michael John LaChiusa), Urinetown (for which he received a Tony Award[13] nomination), Dolly Parton's 9 to 5, Amélie and War Paint (starring Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole).[14][15]

In 2005, he collaborated with Ted Sperling and Adam Guettel on orchestrations for Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza which became “a surprise popular hit”.[16] The show garnered all three a Tony Award[13] and a Drama Desk Award[17] for best orchestrations that year.

Coughlin has also provided additional orchestrations for the Broadway musicals Big Fish, On the Twentieth Century (2015 revival) and Something Rotten!, among others.[18]

In 2014, he orchestrated another revival (of sorts) when he expanded his original 5-piece orchestration of Urinetown for the London premiere of the show thirteen years later. The expanded orchestration only added one additional player (a trumpet) but required rewriting of all the wind instruments in the show. He has written that this 6-piece expanded version is what he had always wanted for the original Broadway version, but the budget didn't allow for the extra player.[19] The London production had a successful run at the St James Theatre (now The Other Palace) and then moved to the West End.[20]

Long-time collaborationsEdit

Coughlin has had long-running collaborations with three prominent composers: Michael John LaChiusa, the songwriting team of Scott Frankel (music) and Michael Korie (lyrics), and with opera and theater composer Ricky Ian Gordon. For LaChiusa he orchestrated 6 shows and one opera including Giant (Larry Hochman provided additional orchestrations), The Wild Party, See What I Wanna See, and First Daughter Suite (a co-orchestration with Michael Starobin).

For Frankel and Korie, he orchestrated Grey Gardens (for which he received a Tony Award nomination),[13] Far From Heaven, Happiness (directed by Susan Stroman), Finding Neverland (UK version) and War Paint.

He co-orchestrated (with the composer) three major Gordon operas (The Grapes of Wrath, 27 and Morning Star) and (as sole orchestrator) three musicals.[21]


Coughlin has also worked extensively overseas, providing orchestrations for five new musicals at Søren Møller's Fredericia Teater in Denmark;[22][23][24] for revivals of Candide (in a chamber music orchestration for the National Theatre), Assassins[25] and the aforementioned Urinetown in London; and for 3 musicals (co-orchestrations with Larry Hochman) by María Isabel Murillo MISI in Bogotá, Colombia.[26][27][28]

Recordings and classical workEdit

In the non-theater realm, he has written orchestrations for many singers (for both concert and recording) including Audra McDonald, Kristen Chenoweth, Julian Fleisher, Nadine Sierra, and Darius de Haas.[29]

In the classical world, Coughlin has often worked with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, notably as orchestrator for Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles,[30] The Thomashevsky Project (with co-orchestrator Peter Gordon)[31] and on the 1992 recording of Bernstein's On the Town, where he orchestrated two songs cut from the original 1944 production. Those songs ("Gabey's Comin’" and "The Intermission's Great") had never been orchestrated but were added back for this new recording. "Gabey’s Comin’" is now a part of the currently available live-performance version of the show.[32] In 2016 they collaborated once again on one of Tilson Thomas's own compositions (Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind) with Coughlin supplying orchestration assistance as the score was finalized.[33]

It was Tilson Thomas who suggested Coughlin to Bruce Hornsby who was assembling a concert suite of four songs to be premiered at the New World Symphony in 2015. In his writing Hornsby had become interested in the techniques of modern classical music (Ligeti, Carter, Schoenberg, etc.) and was experimenting with ways to meld those compositional techniques with his own signature pop music style.[34] The concert was a success and the collaboration continued. The suite now consists of eleven songs.[35]

Awards and nominationsEdit


  • 1995 Obie Award, Orchestrations Floyd Collins
  • 2005 Tony Award, Best Orchestrations The Light in the Piazza
  • 2005 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Orchestrations The Light in the Piazza


  • 1996 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Orchestrations Floyd Collins
  • 1998 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Orchestrations The Sound of Music
  • 2001 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Orchestrations Urinetown
  • 2002 Tony Award, Best Orchestrations Urinetown
  • 2006 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Orchestrations Grey Gardens
  • 2006 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Orchestrations See What I Wanna See
  • 2007 Tony Award, Best Orchestrations Grey Gardens
  • 2009 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Orchestrations 9 to 5
  • 2011 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Orchestrations The Burnt Part Boys
  • 2013 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Orchestrations Giant
  • 2016 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Orchestrations First Daughter Suite
  • 2017 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Orchestrations War Paint


  1. ^ "Antony and Cleopatra at Hartford Stage 1981". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  2. ^ "Leon Levy BAM Digital Archive: Individual: Bruce Coughlin [26363]". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  3. ^ a b "'A Quick 5' with Bruce Coughlin | Maryland Theatre Guide". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  4. ^ League, The Broadway. "Is there life after high school? – Broadway Musical – Original | IBDB". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  5. ^ "About Me". Retrieved 2018-03-12.
  6. ^ "Romance in Hard Times - 1989 Off-Broadway - Creative Team". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  7. ^ "William Bolcom, composer - Casino Paradise". 2012-07-21. Archived from the original on 2012-07-21. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  8. ^ "96 | Obie Awards". Obie Awards. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  9. ^ "FLOYD COLLINS". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  10. ^ Simon, John (2006). John Simon on Theater: Criticism 1974-2003. Applause books. pp. 641–643. ISBN 978-1557835055.
  11. ^ Hausam, Wiley (2003). The New American Musical. New York: Theatre Communications Group (TCG). pp. xix. ISBN 978-1559362009.
  12. ^ "About Me (Broadway)". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  13. ^ a b c "Tony Award for Best Orchestrations". Wikipedia. 2017-06-16.
  14. ^ "'War Paint,' musical about cosmetics divas, headed to Broadway". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  15. ^ "New Musical Amélie Opens on Broadway April 3 | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  16. ^ "The Light in the Piazza, Long-Running Lincoln Center Theater Hit, Closes July 2 | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  17. ^ "Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Orchestrations". Wikipedia. 2017-11-01.
  18. ^ League, The Broadway. "Bruce Coughlin – Broadway Cast & Staff | IBDB". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  19. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions about orchestrations (Revivals)". Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  20. ^ Limited, London Theatre Direct (2014-08-29). "Full Casting Announced For Splash Hit Musical Urinetown". Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  21. ^ "About me (Off-B'way and Regional)". Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  22. ^ Desk, BWW News. "Victoria Clark-Helmed Musical THE TROUBLE WITH DOUG Opens Tonight in Denmark". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  23. ^ "Legendale". (in Danish). Archived from the original on 2018-03-18. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  24. ^ "Business Syd - 25-02-2018 ("Den succesfulde teaterchef")". Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  25. ^ Isherwood, Charles (2014-12-12). "'Assassins,' Sondheim and Weidman's Musical, in London". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-12.
  26. ^ "El Peter Pan De Misi - MISI". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  27. ^ "'Misi' cuenta sus 30 años de historia en el teatro musical - HOY DIARIO DEL MAGDALENA". HOY DIARIO DEL MAGDALENA (in Spanish). 2017-11-26. Archived from the original on 2018-03-18. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  28. ^ "Cartas A Papá Noel - MISI". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  29. ^ "Audio | Discography (Film, Opera and Other recordings)". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  30. ^ "San Francisco Symphony - Bernstein: Arias and Barcarolles". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  31. ^ "The Thomashefskys Official Website - Production Partners". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  32. ^ "On the Town (musical) - Musical numbers". Wikipedia. 2018-01-24.
  33. ^ "NEW WORK | New World Symphony (Program Notes - Playthings of the Wind)". Retrieved 2018-03-12.
  34. ^ "Bruce Hornsby's Modern Classical Moment". Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  35. ^ "Bruce Hornsby With Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra". Miami New Times. Archived from the original on 2018-03-18. Retrieved 2018-03-17.

External linksEdit