On Thursday night, selected students from the HSMT Academy participated in a Master Class with Brown. Each of the five students performed a previously selected piece of music from one of Brown’s works and was then critiqued by him. Brown talked with each student about their choice of song asking questions about what they found difficult and about their acting choices within the song.
“It’s always an amazing privilege to come halfway across the country to encounter such extraordinary talent. It helps keep me from getting complacent, or getting discouraged about the state of theater – I get on a plane and come to Houston and see this passion, this skill, this commitment from these kids, and I feel like there’s suddenly so much to look forward to,” said Brown.
“The idea of singing his song in front of him was very daunting at first. I was afraid that I had interpreted it in a way that wouldn’t match up with his original vision. What was so great, though, was that he never tried to transform any of the performers to fit a mold. He was very big on working with what you have, and not trying to change yourself to fit the kind of character that would sing that song. I loved that,” said HSMT Academy student Mallory Bechtel.
Friday night, Brown performed before a packed house. He performed many of his songs of course, but also allowed the audience to get to know him better by telling a number of anecdotes and sharing some of his own philosophies and viewpoints on a variety of topics.
Jason Robert Brown is the ultimate multi-hyphenate – an equally skilled composer, lyricist, conductor, arranger, orchestrator, director and performer – best known for his dazzling scores to several of the most renowned musicals of his generation, including the recently revived The Last Five Years, his debut song cycle Songs for a New World, and the seminal Parade, for which he won the 1999 Tony Award for Best Score.
Brown has been hailed as “one of Broadway’s smartest and most sophisticated songwriters since Stephen Sondheim” (Philadelphia Inquirer), and his “extraordinary, jubilant theater music” (Chicago Tribune) has been heard all over the world, whether in one of the hundreds of productions of his musicals every year or in his own incendiary live performances. The New York Times refers to Jason as “a leading member of a new generation of composers who embody high hopes for the American musical.” His major musicals as composer and lyricist include: 13, written with Robert Horn and Dan Elish, which began its life in Los Angeles in 2007 and opened on Broadway in 2008 (and was subsequently directed by the composer for its West End premiere in 2012); The Last Five Years, which was cited as one of Time Magazine’s 10 Best of 2001 and won Drama Desk Awards for Best Music and Best Lyrics (and was subsequently directed by the composer in its record-breaking Off-Broadway run at Second Stage Theatre in 2013); Parade, written with Alfred Uhry and directed by Harold Prince, which premiered at Lincoln Center Theatre in 1998, and subsequently won both the Drama Desk and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards for Best New Musical, as well as garnering Jason the Tony Award for Original Score; and “Songs for a New World,” a theatrical song cycle directed by Daisy Prince, which played Off-Broadway in 1995, and has since been seen in hundreds of productions around the world.
The Bridges of Madison County, a musical he adapted with Marsha Norman from the bestselling novel, directed by Bartlett Sher and starring Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale, had a successful run on Broadway followed by a national tour that played all around the country. Honeymoon In Vegas, based on Andrew Bergman’s film, ran on Broadway in 2015 following a triumphant production at Paper Mill Playhouse last fall. A film version of his epochal Off-Broadway musical The Last Five Years starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan and directed by Richard LaGravenese was released in 2014. For the new musical Prince of Broadway, a celebration of the career of Harold Prince, Jason will be serving as the musical supervisor and arranger.
Brown is the winner of the 2002 Kleban Award for Outstanding Lyrics and the 1996 Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Foundation Award for Musical Theatre. His songs, including the cabaret standard “Stars and the Moon,” have been performed and recorded by Audra McDonald, Billy Porter, Betty Buckley, Karen Akers, Renée Fleming, Philip Quast, Jon Hendricks and many others, and his song “Someone To Fall Back On” was featured in the Walden Media film, “Bandslam.” Brown has conducted and created arrangements and orchestrations for Liza Minnelli, John Pizzarelli, Tovah Feldshuh, and Laurie Beechman, among many others.
He studied composition at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., with Samuel Adler, Christopher Rouse, and Joseph Schwantner. He lives with his wife, composer Georgia Stitt, and their daughters in New York City. Brown is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and the American Federation of Musicians Local 802 & 47. He currently teaches musical theater performance and composition at the USC School of Dramatic Arts.
For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.tuts.com. Theatre Under The Stars is Houston’s leading Musical Theatre since 1969, with a focus on education and community engagement. TUTS is a 501c3 Non Profit Organization that relies on the generous support of our donors to deliver first-rate theatre experiences.
For over 40 years, the Humphreys School of Musical (HSMT) has been equipping young people with the tools they need to be successful in musical theatre and in life. Today, HSMT is Houston’s only technique-based performing arts training, and is fully committed to providing our community with the very best in theatrical training and performing arts education. Visit TUTS.com/hsmt for more information!