Many of us have heard the sonorous opening notes of the award-winning musical Wicked. The songs “Popular” and “Defying Gravity” have a cult following around the world. However, few know that the real force behind the music is none other than Bill Brohn, the talented orchestrator who takes a simple melody and turns it into a Tony-winning Broadway hit. His lengthy and successful career began with a stint at as a conductor for the American Ballet and Royal Ballet, and has since expanded to creating arrangements for musical sensations like Liza Minelli and Fredericka von Stade, and to orchestrating Broadway shows. However, the initial classical training proved useful in creating some of Broadway’s “new classics”. His most recent project was the “Ragtime” revival in 2009, which during its first run in 1998 won the Tony for Best Orchestrations. His other masterpieces include Miss Saigon, Carousel, Show Boat, Ragtime, Oklahoma, Curtains, Mary Poppins, and Rodgers and Hart, among many others. He has received many achievement awards for his work including the 2004 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Orchestrations for Wicked, the Tony Award® for Best Orchestrations for Ragtime, the Drama Desk Award Outstanding Orchestrations for Ragtime, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Orchestration for Miss Saigon, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Orchestration for The Secret Garden. Though he states his particular style of musical is a dying breed, making way for more synthesized sounds and less live orchestration, Brohn has made sure to modernize his work with the changing styles and times. He uses a range of instruments depending on the needs of the composer and others involved in the show, and additions such as E-bow attachment for an electric guitar (an addition which makes it unnecessary for one to use a pick or one’s fingers for the instrument) and a number of different musical modes to increase complexity within the songs. Despite the changing industry, Bill Brohn’s beautiful orchestral arrangements will endure as classics.
- 1. Wikipedia: Bill Brohn. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_David_Brohn
- 2. IBDB-Internet Broadway Database: Bill Brohn. http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=69693.