Laurence O'Keefe (composer)
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O'Keefe is a graduate of Harvard College, where he studied anthropology and wrote humor for the Harvard Lampoon and sang with the Harvard Krokodiloes. He got his start in musical theater through Harvard's Hasty Pudding Theatricals, performing in the Pudding's drag burlesques, composing two others (notably Suede Expectations, book by Mo Rocca), and penning one libretto (Romancing the Throne). He later studied composition and film scoring at Berklee College of Music and the University of Southern California.
Until recently he was best known for writing the score for Bat Boy: The Musical, which ran off-Broadway from March 3 to December 2, 2001, followed by over 500 regional and amateur productions all over the USA. Bat Boy received eight Drama Desk Award nominations, including nods for Outstanding Music and Outstanding Lyrics, won two Richard Rodgers Awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and won both the Lucille Lortel Award and the Outer Critics' Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical.
In 2001, O'Keefe received the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Award. In 2004 O'Keefe won the Ed Kleban Award for Outstanding Lyrics, a $100,000 prize. There are two Kleban Awards every year, one given to a lyricist, the other to a book writer (there is no Kleban award for composers).
Bat Boy: The Musical opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre on London's West End on September 8, 2004, and ran till January 15, 2005. Bat Boy: The Musical has also been produced to acclaim in Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo and Osaka in Japan, and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
In February 2004, he guest conducted the Harvard Pops Orchestra in an evening of his songs, as well as premiered his short opera The Magic Futon. A repeat performanc with the Pops was presented in November 2008.
With his wife and co-writer Nell Benjamin, O'Keefe has also written two musicals for Theatreworks USA: Cam Jansen, and Sarah, Plain and Tall. Benjamin and O'Keefe also collaborated on a short musical entitled The Mice, which was produced by Hal Prince as a part of the three-show evening 3hree at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia, in 2000. Benjamin is also a Kleban Award winner for her lyrics.
O'Keefe and Benjamin's project, Legally Blonde: The Musical, opened in San Francisco on February 2, 2007, and opened on Broadway at the Palace Theatre on April 29, 2007 and closed on October 19, 2008. For their work on Legally Blonde, they received Drama Desk nominations for Outstanding Music and Outstanding Lyrics, as well as a Tony Award nomination for Best Score. The first national tour of Blonde opened at the Providence Performing Arts Center in Providence, RI, on September 23, 2008, and was a notably bigger success than the Broadway version. The first national tour ended August 15, 2010, at the Wolf Trap Arts Center in Vienna, VA. Legally Blonde opened January 12, 2010 at the Savoy Theatre in London's West End, starring UK television stars Sheridan Smith, Jill Halfpenny and Peter Davison, plus pop star Duncan James, to rave reviews and sold-out audiences, a reception notably warmer than the show received on Broadway or even on tour.
On March 13, 2011, Legally Blonde won three Laurence Olivier Awards at the annual presentation at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London, including Best New Musical as well as Best Actress in a Musical for Sheridan Smith and Best Supporting Performance in a Musical for Jill Halfpenny. Currently the show has several tours worldwide, including the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and recently premiered to sold-out audiences at the Ronacher Theatre in Vienna, Austria.
As of 2008, he was working on music, lyrics, and collaborating on book with David Shiner for Drop Everything, a new clown show/musical. It was workshopped at ACT Theatre, but pieces were shown at the Tollwood Arts Festival in Munich and the Lisbon Comedy Festival.
O'Keefe and Benjamin's most recent show was an operatic musical produced at New York's Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, titled "Life of The Party." Set in the Soviet Union in 1953 and based on true stories, the show focuses on the artists who labored under harrowing conditions creating Soviet movie musicals, attempting an impossible task: pleasing both Stalin's regime and the public. Publicity materials for the show describe it as: "A story of love, revenge, and trying to make art under tyranny. Life of the Party explores a very timely message: you can't escape cruelty by passing it on."
List of shows
- 1996 - "Euphoria" (Actors' Gang Theater), Los Angeles
- 2000 – The Mice (Prince Music Theater, Philadelphia
- 2001 – Bat Boy: The Musical, Union Square Theatre, New York)
- 2002 – Sarah, Plain and Tall, based on the Patricia MacLachlan children's book
- 2004 – Cam Jansen and the Curse of the Emerald Elephant, after the Cam Jansen mystery series, Lamb's Theatre, New York
- 2007 – Legally Blonde: The Musical
- 2010 – Heathers (Joe's Pub, New York)
- 2012 – Life of the Party (LaGuardia High School of Art, Music and Performing Arts, New York)
- Willis, John (1 July 2008). Theatre World 2005-2006: The Most Complete Record of the American Theatre: The Most Complete Record of the American Theatre, 2005-2006. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 124. ISBN 978-1-55783-708-0. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
- Hodges, Ben (15 November 2009). Theatre World 2008-2009. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 99. ISBN 978-1-4234-7369-5. Retrieved 26 May 2010.