Michael Friedman (composer)

John Michael Friedman (September 24, 1975 – September 9, 2017) was an American composer and lyricist. He was a Founding Associate Artist of theater company The Civilians.

Michael Friedman
Birth nameJohn Michael Friedman
Born(1975-09-24)September 24, 1975
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedSeptember 9, 2017(2017-09-09) (aged 41)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
GenresMusical theatre
Associated actsThe Civilians

His musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson opened on Broadway in October 2010.

Friedman won a 2007 Obie Award for sustained excellence.[1] Additionally, he received a MacDowell Fellowship, a Princeton Hodder Fellowship, a Meet The Composer Fellowship, and was a Barron Visiting Professor at The Princeton Environmental Institute in 2009. At the time of his death, he was the Artist in Residence and Director of the Public Forum at the Public Theater and was also the Artistic Director of City Center Encores! Off-Center.[2]

Friedman died on September 9, 2017, aged 41, from complications related to HIV/AIDS.[3] In 2018, he received a star on the Playwrights’ Sidewalk at the Lucille Lortel Theater.[4]


Born in Boston, Friedman grew up in Philadelphia. He attended Germantown Friends School, after which he studied history and literature at Harvard College.[5] While at Harvard, he studied under Bernard Rands, Mario Davidovsky, and Elizabeth Swados.[6]


Friedman was most well known as the co-creator of the critically acclaimed musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson which premiered in New York at the Public Theater and subsequently transferred to Broadway. Other credits include the musical “Unknown Soldier,” which premiered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and had a critically acclaimed run at Playwright Horizons, “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” which premiered at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Best Musical, Saved, In the Bubble, The Brand New Kid, God's Ear, The Blue Demon and This Beautiful City.

He worked with Itamar Moses on The Fortress of Solitude, an adaption based on the Jonathan Lethem book of the same name. It opened September 30, 2014 at The Public Theater.[7]

In the months leading up to the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, Michael traveled the country creating a series of songs based on interviews he conducted. Those songs became his “State of the Union Songbook,” which was presented by The New Yorker Radio Hour.[8]

Michael was a founding Associate Artist of The Civilians, the acclaimed investigative theater company. His work with The Civilians included “Gone Missing,” “In the Footprint,” “The Great Immensity,” “Paris Commune,” (co-written with Steve Cosson) “(I Am) Nobody’s Lunch,” and “This Beautiful City” as well as the score for Anne Washburn’s critically acclaimed “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play.” His last collaboration with Civilians’ Artistic Director Cosson, “The Abominables,” opened at Children’s Theater Company in Minneapolis in September, 2017.

His music has also been heard at the New York Shakespeare Festival, New York Theatre Workshop, Roundabout Theatre Company, Second Stage, Soho Repertory Theater, Signature Theatre, Theater for a New Audience, and The Acting Company. He wrote the music for Anne Washburn's Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play.

Regionally, his work has been featured at Hartford Stage, The Humana Festival of New American Plays, ART, Berkeley Rep, Dallas Theatre Center, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Portland Center Stage, and internationally at London's Soho and Gate Theatres and the Edinburgh Festival.

He was the dramaturg for the 2004 Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Kenny Leon.[9]

At the time of his passing, he was writing a commissioned work on American history for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a musical about the adult film industry with Bess Wohl and The Civilians titled Pretty Filthy.[10]

The CiviliansEdit

With The Civilians, Friedman was the composer and lyricist for Canard, Canard, Goose?, Gone Missing, [I Am] Nobody's Lunch, This Beautiful City, The Great Immensity, and In the Footprint, and co-author of Paris Commune.[11] His work on Pretty Filthy can be seen in the theater company's premiere production of the new musical.[12]

In partnership with Ghostlight Records, the Civilians will be releasing cast recordings of nine shows that Friedman wrote or co-wrote. The first three, The Great Immensity, This Beautiful City, and The Abominables were released on October 18, 2019.[13] Recordings of Paris Commune and (I Am) Nobody's Lunch were released on August 14, 2020.[14][15]

Notable worksEdit

Awards and NominationsEdit

Year Award Category Work Result
2008 Lucille Lortel Award Outstanding Musical Saved Nominated
2010 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Music Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson Nominated
Drama League Awards Distinguished Production of a Musical Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Awards Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical Won
Outstanding New Score (Broadway or Off-Broadway) Nominated
2014 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Love Labour's Lost Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics Nominated
Drama League Award Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play Nominated
2015 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Pretty Filthy Nominated
Outstanding Music The Fortress of Solitude Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics Nominated
Outer Critic's Circle Award Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical Nominated


  1. ^ "2006–2007 Obie Award Winners - Page 1 - Theater - New York". Village Voice. 2007-05-15. Retrieved 2012-01-06.
  2. ^ michaelfriedmanmusic.com
  3. ^ Paulson, Michael (September 10, 2017). "Michael Friedman, Co-Creator of 'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,' Dies at 41". The New York Times. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  4. ^ michaelfriedmanmusic.com
  5. ^ Grathwohl, Casper (2007-03-11). "Composing for Shakespeare While Listening to Timberlake". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "Songs with "Open Eyes"". Harvardmagazine.com. 15 October 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  7. ^ "2014–2015 Season". Publictheater.org. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  8. ^ michaelfriedmanmusic.com
  9. ^ The Broadway League. "A Raisin in the Sun | IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information". IBDB. Retrieved 2012-01-06.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-02-08. Retrieved 2012-11-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "The Civilians / Artist: Michael Friedman". Thecivilians-artist.blogspot.com. 2009-12-29. Retrieved 2012-01-06.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-11-03. Retrieved 2012-11-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ Paulson, Michael (October 16, 2019). "Michael Friedman Died in 2017. Now 9 Albums of His Work Are Coming". New York Times. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  14. ^ "Paris Commune (The Michael Friedman Collection) [World Premiere Recording]". Amazon. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  15. ^ "(I Am) Nobody's Lunch [The Michael Friedman Collection] [World Premiere Recording]". Amazon. Retrieved October 16, 2020.

External linksEdit