Brian Yorkey is an American playwright, lyricist, librettist, screenwriter, and theatre director known best for writing the musical Next to Normal with composer Tom Kitt. The work won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2009 Tony Awards for Best Original Score, and Best Orchestrations, as well as a win for the musical's leading actress, Alice Ripley.
Yorkey was born in Omaha, Nebraska; raised there and in Issaquah, Washington. He graduated from Columbia University where he served as the Artistic Director of the Varsity Show. He also is an alumnus of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop.
Prior to bringing Next to Normal to Broadway, Yorkey was affiliated with Village Theatre in Issaquah, where he began as a KidStage student and eventually progressed to a seven-year tenure as Associate Artistic Director. Four musicals written by Yorkey—Funny Pages (1993), Making Tracks (2002), The Wedding Banquet (2003), and Play it by Heart (2005)—were staged there.
While at Village Theatre, Brian founded the KidStage Company class which teaches teens to write, direct, and perform their own musicals. Yorkey's frequent collaborator, Tom Kitt, joined him in assisting with the score to the 2008 Company Original, In Your Eyes. Yorkey has also worked with composer, Tim Symons, on other Company Originals such as Last Exit, and A Perfect Fall.
During Yorkey's tenure as Village Theatre's Associate Artistic Director, he developed a comprehensive new works program, Village Originals. The Village Originals program develops approximately ten new musicals each season, in various stages from reading to full production. Yorkey is credited with the development of over 50 new musicals, including the 2010 Broadway musical, Million Dollar Quartet (musical), which was nominated for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and won Best Performance by a Featured Actor (Levi Kreis) in a Musical at the 64th Tony Awards.
In addition to his work with new musicals, Yorkey has directed extensively for Village Theatre, including productions of The Who's Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Cabaret, The Secret Garden, The Importance of Being Earnest, To Kill a Mockingbird, My Fair Lady, The Foreigner, and Lost in Yonkers.
Next to Normal and Subsequent Success
Next to Normal began as a ten-minute-long piece called Feeling Electric, which recent college graduates Yorkey and Kitt wrote as a final project for the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop at the end of the 1990s. Their inspiration was a segment about electroconvulsive therapy Yorkey saw on Dateline NBC. Yorkey has observed that it is "exponentially harder to write an original musical. Musicals that go wrong can be ridiculous because it's a ridiculous art form. People bursting into song can be ridiculous. But musicals that go right can be sublime." In addition to its win of the 2009 Tony Award for Best Original Score, and Tony Award for Best Orchestrations Next to Normal was also nominated for a total of eleven Tony Awards, including the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical. In 2010 Yorkey and Kitt were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Next to Normal, citing "a powerful rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family and expands the scope of subject matter for musicals."
In 2013, Brian's new musical, with composer Tom Kitt, If/Then, starring Idina Menzel, LaChanze, and Anthony Rapp, held its pre-Broadway try-out at The National Theatre in Washington D.C. The musical subsequently opened on Broadway on March 30, 2014. The musical garnered a Tony Award nomination and Outer Critics Circle nomination for Best Original Score for Kitt and Yorkey, as well as a nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actress for Menzel.
Concurrently running on Broadway in 2014, was Yorkey's collaboration with legendary singer, Sting (musician), and co-bookwriter, John Logan (writer), The Last Ship (musical). The Last Ship is loosely based on Sting's album The Soul Cages. It opened on September 29, 2014. Yorkey and Logan were nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for their book.
Film and Television
Yorkey is currently adapting Jay Asher's bestselling novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, for Netflix, Paramount Television, and Anonymous Content. He also scripted Sluts for Lionsgate Films and co-created the series The Bears Next Door for the Logo network. Brian’s first feature film pitch, Time After Time, sold in a bidding war to Universal Pictures. It is now fast tracked at Lionsgate/Summit with Brad Buecker (GLEE, AMERICAN HORROR STORY) directing. His film CHASE is currently in development with Rosenzweig/Gaeta Films and Anonymous Content.
Yorkey and his musical writing partner, Tom Kitt, were commissioned to write new songs for the FOX musical production, Grease: Live. Two of their songs made it to air, "Maybe (Baby)", and "All I Need Is an Angel" sung by Carly Rae Jepsen.
Future Theatrical Projects
Yorkey is again working with Tom Kitt for a musical adaption of Magic Mike, with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa writing the book, as well as a musical version of Freaky Friday with librettist, Bridget Carpenter. Freaky Friday is produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, and will receive its World Premiere at the Signature Theatre (Arlington, Virginia) in late 2016. In addition, Yorkey is co-writing the book and lyrics with Melanie Burgess, to the original musical, Jesus in My Bedroom, with a score by Tim Symons. Jesus in My Bedroom received a reading at Village Theatre's 13th Annual Festival of New Musicals.
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