By Asher Brown-Pinsky
Bill Brohn is one of the most
accomplished arrangers/orchestrators of Broadway and West End musicals today,
working on such productions as Miss
Saigon, Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady, and, recently, Wicked. These productions as well as some
19 others in his 35 year long career as an arranger and orchestrator have
garnered him accolades in addition to a Tony Award for Orchestration for Ragtime in 1998 and Drama Desk Awards
for his work on Crazy for You, Miss Saigon and The Secret Garden.
Brohn studied Music Theory at
Michigan State University in 1955, Music Composition at the New England
Conservatory in 1958 and received further instruction at Tanglewood,
Massachusetts and at Salzburg. During this time Robert Russell Bennet,
considered by many to be the father of the modern sound of the American
musical, mentored him. At the beginning of his career, Brohn served as a
conductor for the Royal Ballet and Robert Joffrey Ballet Companies and various
Broadway musicals before contributing orchestration for Rodgers and Hart, Rockabye
Hamlet, and Timbuktu! and
providing the sole orchestration for King
of Hearts and the plays that followed.
His modern orchestration is characterized
by his use of Electric Guitars particularly with the E-Bow device, and the
mixture of live and synthesized instrumentation. He has also been known to
exhibit Pop and Jazz influences in his arrangements, a holdover from his
student days, when he played bass in dance bands. This sensibility would come
in handy when the instrumentation for musicals began to change.
Besides working in Musical Theater,
Brohn has also provided arrangement and orchestration for several Hollywood
films including the classic 1983 Ally Sheedy/Matthew Broderick vehicle, WarGames (“Is it a game or is it real?”).
In addition, he has also arranged numerous ballet scores and the orchestration
for Liza Minelli’s “Minnelli on Minnelli” concert.
His most recent credit was for Gone
for the Wind at the New London Theatre beginning last April.
*You may notice the abundance of WarGames (Not to be confused with its lighter, derivate, Val Kilmer starring Real Genius) related content and the paucity (absence) of content relating to Mr. Brohn's work in theater. This is no way testimony to the quality of or fact that I've seen the entirety of said film, but, rather a statement regarding my feelings toward Wicked, the obvious choice for visual content/youtube links. I was subjected to the score to Wicked for days and days on end, inflaming my nascent antipathies towards the play and musical theater in general. This is no way a critique of Mr. Brohn's abilities, but rather an indictment of the play's writers and the institution of musical theater as a whole. So you guys can hear Brohn's work and I don't feel dirty about linking to a youtube video for the trailer for the Wicked touring production (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0m6sclZkH0). There, look what you made me do.