Posts Tagged ‘ Jason Robert Brown ’

Go on, go on, go on, go on…

Last Saturday, I saw one of the previews of Parade at the Donmar Warehouse in London with a friend.  This was very exciting, as I had never attended the Donmar before, and this was also the first time I’d seen one of Jason Robert Brown’s works live.  I arrived in plenty of time, to make sure I found the place, which meant that I had a good reason to visit Dress Circle, possibly my favourite shop in the whole world – purely in order to kill time while I was waiting to meet my friend, you understand!  Anyway…

This is a very, very good show indeed.  Tickets have sold like hot cakes, so if you’re at all interested in going, call the box office right now, before even finishing this post, before they all disappear!  There were a few sticky moments in the staging, where the pace and tension flagged for a moment, but they may have been ironed out as previews continued, and other than this slight problem, it was a very engaging, involving show.  It is based on the case of Leo Frank, an infamous miscarriage of justice due to anti-Semitic sentiment in early 20th-century Georgia.  It paints, though Alfred Uhry’s script, Jason Robert Brown’s score and Rob Ashford’s double duty on direction and choreography, a vivid picture of the time with its tensions and resentments, beginning with the Civil War, particularly significant since the major events take place on Memorial Day.

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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.

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