Wednesday, June 26, 2019

William F. Brown 1928 - 2019

William F. Brown, best known as the Tony-nominated librettist for "The Wiz," passed away in Westport, CT on June 23rd at the age of 91. Mr. Brown was, in addition to a Broadway and TV writer, a cartoonist whose credits include selling his first cartoon at age 19 to King Features, creating his first book of cartoons "Tiger Tiger" the following year, as well as contributing cartoons to Stars and Stripes while he served in Korea. The 1950s saw his career on parallel tracks: writing for television and theatre, as well as selling cartoons to all of the major magazine markets. Along with Mel Casson, he created the comic strip "Boomer," which would run for nine years (1972-81).

From Broadway World:

"Brown made his Broadway debut when his play The Girl in the Freudian Slip opened at the Booth Theatre on May 18, 1967. A wild contemporary comedy about a married psychiatrist who finds himself attracted to a patient, the show ran only four performances, but is notably the first adult Broadway credit for Bernadette Peters, who was cast as a standby in the role of the psychiatrist's teen daughter. A popular illustrator, Brown also designed the play's advertising artwork and logo.
"The following year, Brown was head writer on the Broadway revue Leonard Stillman's New Faces of 1968 and was hired to write to book for How to Steal an Election. Subtitled "A Dirty Politics Musical," the off-Broadway musical opened in the weeks prior to the 1968 Presidential election that brought Richard Nixon's victory. With a score by folk artist Oscar Brand, the show depicted Jazz Age president Calvin Coolidge materializing to give a cynical political history lesson to two disillusioned protesters (played by Clifton Davis and Carole Demas, who would both go on to successful Broadway careers).
"Brown's next project become a Broadway juggernaut and earned him a Tony Award nomination for Best Book of a Musical. The Wiz was a contemporary retelling of L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, featuring a street-smart book by Brown, an R&B score by Charles Smalls and an all-black cast of performers. Although it opened with little fanfare at the Majestic Theatre on January 5, 1975, it would go on to win a total of seven Tony Awards including Best Musical and run for over four years on Broadway. A movie version was released in 1978, and The Wiz was revived on Broadway just five years after its closing in 1984. Brown was involved in many high-profile new productions of the popular hit throughout his life, and updated his book for a successful 1990s tour that reunited original show stars Stephanie Mills and André De Shields."

The Daily Cartoonist has much more, including links to his book of beatnik cartoons BEAT BEAT BEAT. 

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