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] He is the recipient of three Tony Awards for his work on Parade and The Bridges of Madison County.

Jason Robert Brown
Brown in 2022
Background information
Born (1970-06-20) June 20, 1970 (age 54)
Ossining, New York, United States
GenresMusical theatre
Occupation(s)Composer, lyricist, playwright
Years active1985–present
Websitejasonrobertbrown.com

Career

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Brown grew up in the suburbs of New York City, and attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York for 2 years, rooming with fellow student, and vocalist, Christopher Mooney.[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]

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]

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]

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 that 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]

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]

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] The film adaptation, retitled 13: The Musical, was released in August 2022.[16]

His Bridges of Madison County, a musical adaption of the film with Marsha Norman[17] premiered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival on August 1, 2013. Directed by Bartlett Sher, the cast featured Elena Shaddow as Francesca and Steven Pasquale.[18] The musical opened on Broadway on February 27, 2014, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, starring Kelli O'Hara as Francesca.[19]

Brown wrote the music for the 2022 musical, Mr. Saturday Night with lyrics by Amanda Green and a book by Billy Crystal, Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel. Brown was nominated for best score at the 2022 Tony Awards.

According to Brown, Bree Lowdermilk used to be an assistant to him.[20] In 2010, Brown 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.[20]

 
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.

As of 2020, Brown was working on a musical adaptation of Farewell My Concubine. He is also working on a musical adaptation of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.[21][22][23] [24]

Musical style

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Brown has many trademarks in his composing style, which is often rhythmically dynamic and harmonically unconventional, calling for a wide vocal range. His lyric writing often includes internal rhymes, and his music is composed of melodic phrases which do not adhere to a predictable 4-measure length. He favors songs 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.[25]

In 2005, Brown was 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).[26]

Personal life

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Brown was born in Ossining, New York. He is Jewish.[27] He was previously married to Theresa O'Neill, and their failed marriage inspired his musical The Last Five Years.[28] Since 2003, Brown has been married to fellow composer Georgia Stitt.[29] Together, they have two daughters.[30]

Major works

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Musical theatre

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Solo albums

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  • Wearing Someone Else's Clothes – 2005 – Brown's solo debut album, composed entirely of tracks which were previously unreleased, some of which were cut songs from shows or written for shows which were never finished, and some of which were written as stand-alone songs for the album. The album features his vocals and compositions on every song, and his arrangements and musicianship on almost every track.
  • How We React and How We Recover – A second solo album, recorded from May–December 2017, features songs developed at his monthly Subculture concert residency in New York. The album was released June 29, 2018 by Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records.
  • Coming From Inside The House (A Virtual SubCulture Concert) – A third solo album, featuring vocals by Shoshana Bean, Ariana Grande, and Brown's wife and daughters. It was recorded on April 27, 2020 for the one-night video streaming event to benefit the SubCulture staff and musicians from the Jason Robert Brown Artist-in-Residence concerts, during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was released worldwide on December 18, 2020 by Craft Recordings.[41]

Other works

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Awards and nominations

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Year Award Category Work Result
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 Musical Won
2002 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Music The Last Five Years Won
Outstanding Lyrics Won
Outstanding Orchestrations Nominated
2003 Tony Award Best Original Score Urban Cowboy Nominated
2009 Drama Desk Award 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 Score Won
2015 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Music Honeymoon in Vegas Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations Nominated
2022 Tony Award Best Original Score Mr. Saturday Night Nominated

Recordings

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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.[43]

References

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  1. ^ Holden, Stephen."Drive and Insecurity Meet, Creating Sparks at the Piano"The New York Times, June 29, 2005
  2. ^ a b Weber, Bruce."If Only the Cool Kids Could See Him Now (at Least Hear His Songs)"The New York Times, October 1, 2008
  3. ^ Brown, Jason Robert (2008). "Nicely done, schmuck". The Sondheim Review. XVI (4). Sondheim Review, Inc.: 25. ISSN 1076-450X.
  4. ^ 'Songs for a New World' listing Archived 2015-10-01 at the Wayback Machine lortel.org, accessed February 1, 2010
  5. ^ a b c d e "Jason Robert Brown". Archived from the original on 2014-02-19.
  6. ^ a b c Internet Broadway Database listing, Brown ibdb.com, accessed February 1, 2011
  7. ^ "THEATER; Trying to Keep the Sound of Musicals Alive – New York Times". The New York Times. 1999-08-29. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  8. ^ Sommer, Elyse "A CurtainUp Review, 'The Last 5 Years' " curtainup.com, March 5, 2002
  9. ^ 'The Last Five Years' listing Archived 2007-10-19 at the Wayback Machine lortel.org, accessed February 1, 2010
  10. ^ a b Holden, Stephen."A Composer Sells His Songs and Himself"The New York Times, February 12, 2007
  11. ^ Gioia, Michael. "Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick Will Explore The Last Five Years On Screen in Richard LaGravenese Adaptation". Archived from the original on 2013-02-24. Retrieved 2013-03-08.
  12. ^ "ATW's Working in the Theatre #311 Production: "Urban Cowboy" (Spring 2003) Extended". YouTube. 8 October 2013. Retrieved 2014-07-04.[dead YouTube link]
  13. ^ Simonson, Robert."Urban Cowboy to Close on Broadway March 29; Will Tour in 2004", playbill.com, March 28, 2003
  14. ^ "Wearing Someone Else's Clothes" listing amazon.com, accessed February 1, 2010
  15. ^ Notes for Chanukah Suite Archived 2009-06-07 at the Wayback Machine seattlechoralcompany.org, ca 2009, accessed February 1, 2010
  16. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (2022-08-16). "'13: The Musical' Review: A Teen Musical Too Wholesome for Words, But the Songs Pop". Variety. Retrieved 2024-04-24.
  17. ^ "Jason Robert Brown to Bring '13' 'The Last Five Years' to Screen More" broadwayworld.com, December 27, 2010
  18. ^ Hetrick, Adam. " 'The Bridges of Madison County', Starring Steven Pasquale and Elena Shaddow, Premieres at Williamstown" Archived 2013-08-03 at the Wayback Machine playbill.com, August 1, 2013
  19. ^ Hetrick, Adam. " 'The Bridges of Madison County', Starring Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale, Sets Broadway Opening Night" Playbill, August 20, 2013
  20. ^ a b "Fighting With Teenagers: A Copyright Story". Jason Robert Brown. 29 June 2010. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ "Open Call Will be Held for New Jason Robert Brown Musical Farewell My Concubine". Playbill.com. 7 January 2020.
  23. ^ Wild, Stephi. "Auditions Are Open For Jason Robert Brown's FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 20 May 2023.
  24. ^ "Jason Robert Brown Will Workshop New Musical THE CONNECTOR at Princeton This Fall". BroadwayWorld.com.
  25. ^ Nisbet, I. (2014), ‘“Don’t Ya Think That’s Pretty Music?” – Jason Robert Brown’s melodic construction from Songs for a New World to The Last Five Years’, Studies in Musical Theatre 8: 3, pp. 239–255, doi: 10.1386/smt.8.3.239_1
  26. ^ Shenton, Mark."Broadways Young(er) Composers" Archived 2012-03-19 at the Wayback MachineThe Stage, December 7, 2005
  27. ^ "Composer Jason Robert Brown". DC Theatre Scene. 2008-10-31. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  28. ^ Vogel, Scott. "A Young Composer's Wonder 'Years'". Washington Post. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  29. ^ "Weddings/Celebrations; Georgia Stitt, Jason Robert Brown" The New York Times, October 19, 2003
  30. ^ "Jason Robert Brown and Georgia Stitt Welcome A Baby Girl!" Archived 2009-10-24 at the Wayback Machine broadwayworld.com, October 21, 2009
  31. ^ "'Songs for a New World' Listing" Archived 2015-10-01 at the Wayback Machine Internet Off-Broadway Database, accessed September 30, 2015
  32. ^ McPhee, Ryan (June 28, 2018). "Read Reviews for Encores! Off-Center's Songs for a New World". Playbill. Retrieved 2021-10-22.
  33. ^ https://playbill.com/article/the-last-five-years-with-adam-kantor-and-betsy-wolfe-extends-prior-to-off-broadway-bow-com-203077
  34. ^ https://playbill.com/article/nick-jonas-and-adrienne-warren-to-star-in-the-last-five-years-on-broadway
  35. ^ "Jason Robert Brown's 13 Announces Broadway Closing Date". Archived from the original on 2008-12-19.
  36. ^ "The Tony Award Nominees – Shows – TonyAwards.com – The American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards® – Official Website by IBM". TonyAwards.com. 2014-02-18. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  37. ^ "Shoshana Bean to Co-Star in Billy Crystal Musical Mr. Saturday Night on Broadway". playbill.com. 2022-01-12. Retrieved 2022-01-13.
  38. ^ "Twitter - Jason Robert Brown". twitter.com. 2022-01-12. Retrieved 2022-01-13.
  39. ^ HARMS, TALAURA (January 25, 2024). "New Jason Robert Brown Musical The Connector Extends Off-Broadway at MCC Theater".
  40. ^ "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil".
  41. ^ "New Album "Coming from Inside the House" Released 12/18!". Jasonrobertbrown.com. 14 December 2020.
  42. ^ "The Waverly Gallery – 2000 Off-Broadway – Backstage". Broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  43. ^ "Songs of Jason Robert Brown: Music". Amazon. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
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