Booking It! Tony and Grammy Award-Winning Book of Mormon and Wicked Music Director and Orchestrator Stephen Oremus

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04 Mar 2014

Stephen Oremus
Stephen Oremus
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN's new feature series Booking It asks leading industry members to share professional insights, need-to-know tips and essential tricks of the trade for up-and-coming and established theatre artists. This week we speak with Stephen Oremus, the Tony and Grammy Award-winning orchestrator, conductor and music director of The Book of Mormon, Kinky Boots and Wicked.

Oremus made his Broadway debut in 2003, penning the original orchestrations and arrangements for the Tony-winning hit Avenue Q, for which he also served as musical supervisor. That same year Oremus was also part of the original creative team of the Stephen Schwartz blockbuster Wicked, serving as conductor, musical director and arranger.

He won his first Tony Award in 2011 for co-orchestrating the Tony-winning hit The Book of Mormon with Larry Hochman, and earned a Grammy Award for producing the Broadway cast album of that musical. Oremus followed up with a 2013 Tony Award for his orchestrations for the Cyndi Lauper musical Kinky Boots, for which he also serves as musical supervisor. His credits also include serving as conductor, musical director and additional orchestrator for the Dolly Parton musical 9 to 5; as well as vocal arranger for High Fidelity; and orchestrator, musical supervisor and arranger for All Shook Up.

For a performer, what is most important to a music director? Vocal technique, range?
Oremus: I would say that both vocal technique and range are very important. It all depends on the role being cast and what the requirements are for that role. Don't forget, this is a collaborative process and the music director is just one of several people behind the table. If someone sounds amazing singing something, it doesn't mean that they have the acting ability or presence to handle a specific role. It's important to look at how that person is communicating musically and how well all of the elements come together. It's never about just singing, it's about storytelling through music.

How much material should be in your book? Some professionals say pick the handful of songs you do best, while others say to have a wide variety of options.
Oremus: No matter how large your repertoire is, it's always important to have at least a few other songs with you in case the team wants to explore more musically. It's also helpful for some of the other songs to be in the style of the show you are auditioning for. Music directors like to know if a performer does well on other material and not just one song that they sing really well.

In your opinion, what is the best way to prepare your book?
Oremus: It's important to have a very clear audition cut of a song for the pianist to play, which is double-sided with pages that are easy to turn. Now that we have the technology to print songs in any key, it's important that you have the song in your key and not rely on an accompanist to transpose on sight. You are only putting yourself at a disadvantage if you come with loose pages that can fall off the piano, or a song that the pianist will have to transpose, or make up an accompaniment to. The time invested in preparing a book that anyone can play will only help you in the end.


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