Nell Benjamin is a lyricist, writer, and composer noted for her work in musical theatre. With her husband and frequent collaborator Laurence O'Keefe, she won the Laurence Olivier Award for writing Legally Blonde in 2011. And in 2007, she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Original Score for Legally Blonde, and then again in 2018 for her lyrics for Mean Girls.
Early life and education
Benjamin grew up in New York City and attended Harvard University, where she met future husband Laurence O'Keefe. She earned a master's degree in women's studies from the University of Dublin. After graduating, she moved to Los Angeles and, with O'Keefe, worked as a writer for television and film.
Benjamin and O'Keefe collaborated on a number of original musicals which ran Off-Broadway, including The Mice (2000), an adaptation of Sarah, Plain and Tall (2002), and Cam Jansen And The Curse Of The Emerald Elephant (2004), based on the Cam Jansen mystery series. The Mice was turned into a musical with three short parts, titled 3three, which was produced at the Prince Music Theater, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2000 and at the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles in 2001.
Benjamin and O'Keefe's first Broadway production was Legally Blonde: The Musical, for which they created the music and lyrics. Legally Blonde premiered on Broadway in April 2007, ran for 595 performances and 30 previews, and closed in October 2008. Benjamin and O'Keefe were nominated for a Tony Award for Best Original Score.
Legally Blonde: The Musical opened in January 2010 on London's West End at the Savoy Theatre, ran for two and a half years, and won three Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.
Benjamin's first full-length play, The Explorers Club, premiered Off-Broadway in 2013. A farce about a woman trying to gain entry to an elite club of explorers in 19th century Britain, it won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play. Reviewers largely praised Benjamin's skills as a comedic writer.
She wrote the lyrics to Mean Girls, the stage adaptation of the 2004 film of the same name, with Jeff Richmond composing the music and Tina Fey writing the book. Mean Girls premiered on Broadway in April 2018. She was again nominated for the Tony Award for Best Original Score (alongside Richmond).
She wrote the lyrics to the musical Dave, based on the 1993 American political comedy film of the same name and co-wrote the book with Thomas Meehan. It was produced at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. in July 2018.
She wrote the book and lyrics for the musical Because of Winn Dixie, which is based on the novel by Kate DiCamillo. The music is composed by Duncan Sheik. The musical ran at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut, from July 2019 to September 2019 after being produced in December 2013 at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, February 2015 at Delaware Theatre Company and January 2017 at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.
- "Weddings. Nell Benjamin, Laurence O'Keefe" The New York Times, April 29, 2001
- Friedman, Dick (September 2014). "Laughter and Lyrics—Legally". Harvard Magazine. Archived from the original on 2017-07-11. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
- Simonson, Robert. "Harold Prince Lofts a 3hree-Pointer in Philly, Oct. 25" Playbill, October 25, 2000
- Van Gelder, Lawrence. "Theater Review: The Pain of Loss, Assuaged by a Fresh Face" The New York Times, July 18, 2002
- Cam Jansen Internet Off-Broadway Database, retrieved July 26, 2019
- "Nell Benjamin". American Theatre Wing. September 2008. Archived from the original on 2016-12-06. Retrieved 2019-02-27.
- Hitchcock, Laura. "A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review. 3hree: The Mice, Lavender Hill Girl, The Flight of the Lawnchair Man ' CurtainUp, April 25, 2001
- Hetrick, Adam. " Legally Blonde to Close on Broadway Oct. 19" Playbill, September 24, 2008
- "TCG: Theatre Communications Group. Edgerton Foundation.New Play Awards, 2012 Awards. The Explorers Club". www.tcg.org. Retrieved 2019-03-26.
- Isherwood, Charles (June 20, 2013). "Woman Storms a Manly Fortress in 1879 London". Archived from the original on 2018-10-28. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
- "AWARDS FOR 2013-2014". outercritics.org. Retrieved 2019-03-26.
- Stasio, Marilyn (2013-06-21). "Legit Review: 'The Explorers Club'". Variety. Retrieved 2019-03-26.
- Dziemianowicz, Joe. "'The Explorers Club,' theater review". nydailynews.com. Retrieved 2019-03-26.
- "The Tony Award Nominees - Artists - Nell Benjamin". TonyAwards.com. Retrieved 2019-02-27.
- Gans, Andrew. "World Premiere of 'Dave' Musical, Starring Drew Gehling and Mamie Parris, Opens at Arena Stage July 27" Playbill, July 27, 2018
- Purcell, Carey. " 'Because of Winn Dixie', New Musical by Duncan Sheik and Nell Benjamin, Will Premiere in Arkansas; John Tartaglia Directs" Playbill, July 18, 2013
- Gans, Andrew. "Read Reviews for 'Because of Winn Dixie', the New Musical by Duncan Sheik and Nell Benjamin" Playbill, July 22, 2019