Jason Robert Brown


One of the most talented people writing for theatre at the moment is one Jason Robert Brown.  I tend to get blank looks if I mention him in real life, though I’ve recently discovered some fellow fans of this amazing man.  He not only writes and arranges music, but he plays piano like a demon (a very musical demon) and has an incredible voice with range, depth and passion.  You can tell this from his printed music, full of twiddly notes in the accompaniment and including long, held notes that probably have tenors the world over cursing his name.  Not me, though, as I’ve not yet attempted to learn any of his songs.

In terms of theatre, he’s written a few diverse musicals, none of which I’ve yet seen, though I have tickets to see Parade in September, at the Donmar Warehouse.  Most exciting.  This is his most ‘traditional’ musical, really, and tells the tragic true story of Leo Frank, who was lynched in 1915 for a crime he did not commit.  His other shows are Songs for a New World, which is a song cycle notable for ‘Stars and the Moon’, which has been recorded by a whole host of female artists; The Last Five Years, a two-person musical telling the story of a relationship from beginning to end and end to beginning at the same time; 13, which has a cast of teenagers and centres around a bar mitzvah; and a chunk of the score for the stage adaptation of Urban Cowboy.  They have little, if anything in common, other than JRB’s gift for composing technically challenging, emotionally revealing, passionate music.

Recently, I’ve been listening again to his album Wearing Someone Else’s Clothes, which is just as excellent, passionate and engaging as his theatrical scores.  I wish I could explain what it is about his music and performance which impress me so much, but I must simply say that it’s well worth checking his work out.  He’s often referred to as a successor to Stephen Sondheim, but that’s not entirely right, as Jason Robert Brown has a unique musical voice quite different to Sondheim’s, though comparisons on grounds of composing talent are entirely justified.  Brown has a great website which includes a bunch of his songs that can be listened to on-line.  There’s also a blog, which he often uses to address questions from his fans in a consistently amusing fashion.  Do yourself a favour and investigate this talented man.

  1. Hey Singing Librarian! Thanks for the shout-out, and I hope to meet you at the Donmar!

    All best,
    JRB

  2. *tries to remain calm and collected*
    No problem, I just wish I could ‘speak’ music properly, to explain the basis for my admiration.
    Very, very much looking forward to September!

    • floatykatja
    • June 17th, 2007

    Oh my gosh!

    *starstruck*

    I’m a big fan of JRB’s. I was gutted to miss ‘The Last Five Years’ when it was on at The Chocolate Factory recently, due to the fact that I was on tour at the time.

  3. I’ve only just made the effort to visit JRB’s website and had a look at some of the lyrics for the songs on ‘Wearing Someone Else’s Clothes’. If the music is as good as the lyrics I think I might become a fan! I’ll have to listen to some of the samples on his website later.

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