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Shades of Brown

Jason Robert Brown gets a great cast and a full orchestra together for a concert of his work at Cooper Union. logo

The Parade continues on April 28. Songs from that Tony-winning show and other works by the extraordinary musical theater composer-lyricist Jason Robert Brown will be presented in concert at the Great Hall of Cooper Union on Saturday, April 28 at 7:30pm.

Jason Robert Brown
"We did an evening similar to this at the Guggenheim last year," Brown says, "and that was a lot of fun; but we had only eight or nine musicians. This time, I thought, 'Let me try to pull together a big orchestra.' So we're going to have 35 pieces. My feeling is that, as the orchestras of Broadway shows continue to get smaller and smaller, we're not going to get a chance to hear that big sound anymore. I want to be at the forefront of the movement to go in the opposite direction. Songs for a New World was originally orchestrated for six pieces and Parade was orchestrated for 20, but all of that stuff will now be played by 35 pieces."

As to the impressive cast of the Cooper Union concert, Brown says, "I couldn't be happier. I met Donna Murphy before she was Donna Murphy. She came in and auditioned for The Petrified Prince and we were about the cast her, but she said, 'I just got an offer to do this other show that Steve Sondheim wrote.' So it will be great to have her sing "Stars and the Moon" for the concert. I've known Joel Grey for years through the [Hal] Princes, and I'm thrilled that he's going to do this; one of his hidden dreams, I think, is to be Vic Damone, so we're going to give that side of him a workout; he's going to sing "Grow Old With Me," a swing number I wrote for David Lindsay-Abaire's new play Kimberly Akimbo at South Coast Rep."

Musical theater buffs who like to be on the cutting edge should know that the program will also feature selections from Brown's upcoming musical The Last Five Years, set to open at the Northlight Theater in Chicago on May 23. "We're starting rehearsals for that just before the concert," Brown says. "It's a two character piece about a man and a woman who meet, fall in love, get married, and then fall apart. The trick to the show is that the woman tells her side of the story from the end of the marriage backwards, and the man tells his from their first date forwards. The stories meet in the middle, at the wedding. It's really an examination of these two people and why they do or don't belong together. It's my kind of show--full of ambiguity and conflict but, hopefully, very tuneful!"

The Last Five Years songs will be performed at the concert by Norbert Leo Butz and Lauren Kennedy, while the Parade selections will be sung by stars of that show's national tour: Andrea Burns, David Pittu, Keith Byron Kirk, Randy Redd, and Jeff Edgerton. All tickets to the event are general admission and are available at $15 by phoning TicketCentral at 212-279-4200, or via

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