Born: New York, New York, 29 November 1959
Genre: Musical Theater
Best-selling album since 1990: Jekyll and Hyde: Original Broadway Cast Recording (1997)
Hit songs since 1990: "This Is the Moment," "Where Do Broken Hearts Go," "You Are My Home"
One of the few composers to have had three Broadway shows running simultaneously, Frank Wildhorn derives much of his notoriety from the hit-and-miss world of New York's Broadway theater. However, his pop music has been recorded by a lengthy list of top musical artists and his classical compositions are performed all over the world. Wildhorn's gift for churning out melodic, catchy songs has clashed at times with the artistic notions of Broadway theater's critics and elitists.
Although he had no formal musical training, Wild-horn started composing music on the family organ. His passion for and skill in composing developed while writing and playing for rhythm and blues, jazz, and rock bands during his teenage years after his family had moved from Queens, New York, to Hollywood, Florida, when he was fourteen. Following high school, Wildhorn attended Miami University but transferred after a year to the University of Southern California (USC) where he studied history and philosophy. He also moonlighted in the Los Angeles area as a musician in clubs and studios. Inspired after watching West Side Story and Jesus Christ Superstar on television in 1979, Wildhorn composed a musical loosely based on Jesus Christ Superstar titled Christopher. Later that year, he persuaded USC's drama department to stage Christopher as a main stage production. Although the play was considered unpolished and has never been produced again, it impressed Chrysalis Records enough to offer Wildhorn a song-publishing deal. This began an impressive songwriting career of over 250 published songs that have sold over 50 million records. A diverse list of artists have recorded Wildhorn's songs including Whitney Houston, Kenny Rogers, Sammy Davis Jr., Natalie Cole, Travis Tritt, Hootie and the Blowfish, Blues Traveler, and Dr. John. However, a strong fascination for musical theater remained.
In 1990 Wildhorn's musical, Jekyll and Hyde, received its first production at the Alley Theater in Houston. Wildhorn also released the show's songs in an album, Jekyll and Hyde (1990). Several of the songs received pop airplay, particularly "This Is the Moment", which was performed by Jennifer Holiday at President Bill Clinton's 1996 inauguration in addition to many other national events. After several years of rewrites, Jekyll and Hyde opened on Broadway at the Plymouth Theater in 1997. Critics were harsh, writing that the show was campy and the score was too bland, but theatergoers, drawn to the likable music and the play's raw, gothic feel, kept up a steady attendance. Jekyll and Hyde ran for 1,543 performances before closing on January 5, 2001. The original Broadway cast album from the show was released in 1997. One of the female stars of the show, the singer Linda Eder, met Wildhorn in 1987 when she auditioned for an earlier version of Jekyll and Hyde. They married in 1998 and have a son together in addition to another son from Wildhorn's first marriage. Wildhorn has written and produced several recordings for Eder.
In 1998 another Wildhorn musical, The Scarlet Pimpernel, opened on Broadway at the Minskoff Theater. Most critics panned this production as well, noting that the music was weak. These notions exasperated Wildhorn and he made public his ire regarding the state of Broadway theater, which in his opinion was a myopic world that only included a select few. However, just as with his first Broadway effort, the public still came despite the critics. Pimpernel has the odd distinction of closing and re-opening on Broadway only a year later with a new cast, this time at the Neil Simon Theater. Combined, the two Pimpernel productions ran 772 performances before closing. The original cast album was released in 1998 and features stunning work by Broadway veteran Terrence Mann on engaging numbers such as "Falcon in the Dive" and "Where's the Girl?"
When Wildhorn's The Civil War opened on Broadway at the St. James Theater in 1999 it earned him the distinction of having three shows running on Broadway at the same time. The show was a series of songs that gave voice to actual diaries and documents from the time of the Civil War. The Civil War 's Broadway run lasted only two months as Wildhorn's music was lambasted for being better suited to radio and not appropriate for Broadway. Wildhorn released a recording of the show's songs on an album called The Civil War: Nashville Sessions, which features an array of country and pop singing stars. There is also a Broadway cast version of the musical available. A successful United States tour of The Civil War played for two years after the show closed on Broadway.
A self-described workaholic, Wildhorn is usually creating different projects simultaneously, often in collaboration or with the intent of producing a vehicle for his wife. In 2003 he was working on the musical productions Camille Claudel, Dracula, and Havana.
Wildhorn's inability to gain acceptance within the inner circles of Broadway theater seems to have little effect on the composer's enthusiasm for writing and creating shows for the theater. Throughout his career, Wildhorn has been able to generate music that draws listeners and fellow artists to his work.
Jekyll and Hyde: Concept Recording (BMI/RCA Victor, 1990); The Scarlet Pimpernel: Concept Recording (EMI Angel, 1992); Jekyll and Hyde: The Complete Work (Atlantic, 1994); Jekyll and Hyde: Original Broadway Cast (Atlantic, 1997); The Scarlet Pimpernel: Original Broadway Cast (Atlantic, 1998); The Civil War: Nashville Sessions (Atlantic, 1998); The Scarlet Pimpernel: Encore! (Atlantic, 1999); The Civil War: The Complete Work (Atlantic, 1999).
"Wildhorn, Frank." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/wildhorn-frank
"Wildhorn, Frank." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/wildhorn-frank
Wildhorn, Frank 1959–
WILDHORN, Frank 1959–
Born 1959, in New York, NY; married Linda Eder (an actress and singer), May 3, 1998; children: (with Eder) Jake Ryan; (previous marriage) Justin. Education: Attended Miami University and University of Southern California. Avocational Interests: Tennis, other sports.
Composer, producer, lyricist, and musician. Atlantic Theatre, New York City, creative director, beginning 1995; Alley Theatre, Houston, TX, associate artist. Songwriter for numerous artists and groups, including Trace Adkins, Julie Andrews, Regina Bell, John Berry, Peabo Bryson, Betty Buckley, Deana Carter, Natalie Cole, Dennis DeYoung, Linda Eder, Amy Grant, Jennifer Holliday, Hootie and the Blowfish, Whitney Houston, Freddie Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Stacy Lattishaw, Tracy Lawrence, Johnny Mathis, Liza Minnelli, Molly Hatchet, the Moody Blues, Jeffrey Osborne, John Raitt, Kenny Rogers, Brenda Russell, Travis Tritt, Stanley Turrentine, Ben Vereen, Anthony Warlow, Bryan White, Colm Wilkinson, BeBe Winans, Tricia Yearwood, and Sammy Davis, Jr. Worked as a musician; instructor of master classes; public speaker at various venues. A scholarship in Wildhorn's name has been established at the University of Southern California.
Grammy Award nomination, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1997, for cast recording of Jekyll & Hyde; Antoinette Perry Award nominations, best original score and best new musical, 1999, and Drama Desk Award nomination, outstanding new musical, all for The Civil War.
Coproducer, Harlem Song, Apollo Theatre, New York City, 2002.
Pianist, An Intimate Evening with Frank Wildhorn and Friends (concert), Upstairs@Studio 54, New York City, 2002.
Television Executive Producer; Specials:
(And musical director) The Goodwill Games Opening Celebration, TBS, 1998.
Linda Eder, the Christmas Concert, Bravo, 2001.
(And artistic director) Broadway's Best, Bravo, 2002.
It's Time, by Linda Eder, Atlantic, 1997.
It's No Secret Any More, by Linda Eder, Atlantic, 1999.
Jekyll & Hyde (musical), book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, Houston, TX, 1990, then Plymouth Theatre, New York City, 1997–2001.
Ali–Svengali (musical), book and lyrics by Gregory Boyd, Alley Theatre, Houston, TX, 1991, included as part of The Romantics.
Additional songs "Living in the Shadows," "Louie Says," and "Trust Me," Victor/Victoria (musical), Marquis Theatre, New York City, 1995–97.
The Scarlet Pimpernel (musical), book and lyrics by Nan Knighton, Alley Theatre, revised version, Minskoff Theatre, New York City, 1997–99, then Neil Simon Theatre, New York City, 1999–2000.
(And author of book and lyrics with Gregory Boyd and Jack Murphy) The Civil War (musical), Alley Theatre, 1998, then St. James Theatre, New York City, 1999.
Dracula, the Musical (musical), book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla, CA, 2001, then Belasco Theatre, New York City, 2004.
Camille Claudel (musical), book and lyrics by Knighton, Norma Terris Theatre, Chester, CT, 2003.
Composer of Ali, Big Nose, Christopher, Cyrano de Bergerac, Havana, The Road to Nirvana, other segments of The Romantics, and Wonderland; composer for the ballet Natasha. Wildhorn's work has been performed widely in repertory, regional, and touring productions in the United States and abroad.
Television Composer; Specials:
Additional songs, Victor/Victoria, Bravo, 1995.
The Goodwill Games Opening Celebration, TBS, 1998.
Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical (musical), multiple channels, 2001.
Songs featured in other television programs.
(With Chuck Jackson) "Where Do Broken Hearts Go," by Whitney Houston, Arista, 1987.
(With Nan Knighton) "You Are My Home," by Linda Eder and Peabo Bryson, c. 1992.
Wildhorn's songs have been recorded by others, published as sheet music, and included in songbooks.
Albums with Others:
Highlights from Jekyll & Hyde (concept recording), RCA, 1990.
The Scarlet Pimpernel: Concept Recording (concept recording), EMI Angel, 1992.
Jekyll & Hyde: The Complete Work, Atlantic, 1994.
Jekyll & Hyde: The Gothic Musical Thriller (concept recording), Atlantic, 1995.
It's Time, by Linda Eder, Atlantic, 1997.
Jekyll & Hyde (original Broadway cast recording), Atlantic, 1997.
The Civil War: The Nashville Sessions (studio cast recording), Atlantic, 1998.
The Scarlet Pimpernel: The New Musical Adventure, Atlantic, 1998.
The Civil War (studio cast recording), Atlantic, 1999.
It's No Secret Any More, by Linda Eder, Atlantic, 1999.
Jekyll & Hyde: The Bremen Highlights, Polydor, 1999.
The Scarlet Pimpernel: Encore! (Broadway revival cast recording), Atlantic, 1999.
Wildhorn's music has been featured in cast albums and several other recordings and translated for foreign recordings.
Contemporary Musicians, Volume 31, Gale, 2001.
Billboard, June 17, 1995, p. 38.
New Criterion, June, 1999, p. 39.
Time, December 22, 1997.
Wildhorn Side, 1998.
Broadway World Online,http://www.broadwayworld.com, June 13, 2004.
Frank Wildhorn Official Site,http://www.frankwildhorn.com, November 22, 2004.
"Wildhorn, Frank 1959–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/wildhorn-frank-1959
"Wildhorn, Frank 1959–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/wildhorn-frank-1959
Composer, lyricist, producer
Best known for his popular musicals, Frank Wildhorn became one of the most successful theater composers of the 1990s. In 1999, he was the first American artist in 22 years to see three of his shows running simultaneously on Broadway— Jekyll & Hyde at the Plymouth Theatre, The Scarlet Pimpernel at the Min-skoff Theatre, and The Civil War at the St, James Theatre. But Wildhorn does not like the term “Broadway” used to describe his work. “It’s theater! It’s not Broadway!,” he rebuked an interviewer from the Min-skoff (where The Scarlet Pimpernel first opened) when she spoke the word in reference to his longtime love affair with the stage, as quoted by Diane Krieger in the USC Trojan Family Magazine. “Broadway,” he quickly informed her, “is a few blocks between a couple of avenues. I believe theater is a national and international word.” Described by most as unpretentious and unaffected, despite all the fame that surrounds him, Wildhorn scoffs at the New York institution’s tendency to seem elitist and narrow in scope.
Judging by the reactions of several theater critics and Broadway insiders, Wildhorn’s outbursts are not all that surprising. Although Broadway has encouraged the considerable hoopla that surrounds him—The New York Daily News hailed him as the “B’way Music Man”
Born in 1959 in New York City, NY; married singer Linda Eder, 1998. Education: Attended Miami University and the University of Southern California.
Began composing and teaching himself to play piano at age 15; played with rock, R&B, and jazz bands in high school; Jekyll and Hyde concept album and stage production debuted, 1990; The Scarlet Pimpernel premiered at the Minskoff Theatre, November 1997; The Civil War opened at Houston’s Alley Theatre, 1998; served as an Associate Artist in Musical Theatre with an endowed chair at the Alley Theatre, as well as Creative Director of Atlantic Theatre, a division of Atlantic Records; has penned songs recorded by Whitney Houston, Natalie Cole, Travis Tritt, and Linda Eder.
Addresses: Record company —Atlantic Records, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY 10104, phone: (212) 707-2533, fax: (212) 405-5665. Website —Official Frank Wildhorn Website, http://www.frankwildhorn.com.
and “the theater’s hottest composer”—it has simultaneously loaded him down with an equal measure of abuse. Nominated for a mere five Tony Awards collectively for his shows, none of which resulted in a win, Wildhorn likewise has yet to win the favor of critics, who routinely trash his productions. For example, the New York Times called Jekyll & Hyde “leaden, solemnly campy,” Newsday labeled The Scarlet Pimpernel “galumphing, dunderheaded,” and the New York Times bashed The Civil War as “one bland stream of dentist’s office pop,” going so far as to scold the audience for enjoying it.
However, poor reviews failed to rattle Wildhorn, and his adoring fans enable him to virtually become critic-proof. His shows drew in millions of theater goers each year, while at times, with somewhere around a half a dozen productions being performed around the world simultaneously, a reported 40, 000 people may attend a Wildhorn musical in a single night. “I’m called That Pop Guy, ’” the composer once told the Los Angeles Times, discussing his mass appeal. “What do they want me to be? The Unpop Guy?’” Wildhorn, indeed, does possess a knack for writing pop music. In addition to his musicals, he also penned songs recorded by Whitney Houston (including the international number-one hit “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”), Natalie Cole, Travis Tritt, and his wife, singer Linda Eder (whose Atlantic Records albums It’s Time and It’s No Secret Anymore were written and co-produced by Wildhorn).
Born to Jewish parents in New York City in 1959, Wildhorn spent his early childhood in Harlem, the Bronx, and Queens before his family moved to Hollywood, Florida, when he was 14. But he was never really interested in music growing up, and discovered his talent for composing almost by chance. “I took piano lessons when I was nine years old for two weeks. I dropped that immediately because it was getting into my football time,” he told Nancy Rosati for The Scarlet Pimpernel website. Later, at the age of 15, Wildhorn picked up music again when he started fiddling around on the family organ in between football practices. Before long, he realized he wanted to compose. “That happened the second I started teaching myself how to play the piano,” Wildhorn continued. “I’m an ex-jock that writes songs. Writing, to me, is not an intellectual or a cerebral exercise. It’s very much an emotional or sensual kind of thing. I always say that writing is like fishing. The songs are there. Some days I catch a big one … some days I don’t catch much.”
As a teen, Wildhorn played in and wrote music for various bands, from rock and roll and R&B to jazz. To this day, he prefers not to limit himself to working exclusively for the theater. “I just love music,” he explained. “I’m a composer. When I work in the theater, I’m a theater composer. When I’m writing for Whitney Houston or Kenny Rogers or Natalie Cole, I’m a pop composer. I’ve been commissioned by the Bolshi Ballet to do a full length ballet, so I’m a classical composer when I’m doing that. I’m just a composer, and depending on the medium I work in, that’s what I am that day.”
After high school, the aspiring composer attended nearby Miami University for one year, then transferred to the University of Southern California where he studied history and philosophy by day and played gigs and made industry contacts by night. Also in college, he started writing Jekyll & Hyde with a classmate. In 1990, an album of songs from the show appeared, and soon afterward, Jekyll & Hyde debuted at the Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas. Then it lay dormant for several years, though songs from the work filtered through the pop mainstream. One song in particular, “In This Moment,” became a hit the world over, and was heard at such events as President Bill Clinton’s inauguration and the Winter Olympics. In 1995, Jekyll & Hyde took the stage again, proving itself a cult favorite before landing on Broadway in the spring of 1997. The show went on to productions in Madrid, Tokyo, Copenhagen, Helsinki, London, and Australia, as well as a two-year tour of America, beginning in April of 1999.
Similarly, The Scarlet Pimpernel took its course to Broadway via the pop charts with a concept album and a Top 40 single, “You Are My Home,” sung by Eder and Peabo Bryson. After closing at the Minskoff, where it premiered in November of 1997, the show went on to theaters in Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta, followed by a national tour and a return to New York at the Neil Simon Theatre. Again, Wildhorn survived scathing criticism, including condemnations that his music sounded “too commercial.” Even Kathleen Raitt, producer of The Scarlet Pimpernel, admitted, “Nobody but the public loves his music” while close friends resorted to sending him early negative reviews of Puccini and Verdi operas to make him feel better. “There’s a tendency to get bitter and cynical, but I’m not going to do that,” he said to Richard Zoglin of Time. “I’ve got too much joy.”
In the fall of 1998, The Civil War, for which Wildhorn set to music letter, diaries, and other documents from the war, opened at Houston’s Alley Theatre. Next, it moved to Broadway, then, after earning Tony nominations in 1999 for Best New Musical and Best Score, to a national tour that lasted until 2001. Prior to its opening, Wildhorn released a double concept album of The Civil War. Many stars participated in the project, among them Hootie and the Blowfish, Blues Traveler, Trisha Yearwood, Travis Tritt, Doctor John, and Betty Buckley. A single album entitled The Nashville Sessions was also released.
Wildhorn’s next venture was The Romantics, a multi-album project in collaboration with Stephen Schwartz, Maury Yeston, and Don Black, expected for release in 2001. Additionally, he kept busy writing numerous other musicals and projects, including Wonderland, a show in development with magician David Copperfield; Havana, a romantic musical comedy written by Gregory Boyd and Jack Murphy; Ali Svengali, a musical biography written by Boyd; Big Nose, a musical for children; and Vampyr, a gothic opera based on the Bram Stoker classic Dracula.
Further, Wildhorn served as an Associate Artist in Musical Theatre with an endowed chair at the Alley Theatre, where Svengali opened as well, wrote music for Arthur Knight’s play The Road to Nirvana, scored the play Cyrano de Bergerac, and composed additional songs for Julie Andrews in the remounted Broadway show VictorA/ictoria. Involved in a long-term working relationship with Warner Brothers Pictures, Wildhorn is in the midst of developing animated feature films and live action musical projects. He also acted as Creative Director of Atlantic Theatre, a division of Atlantic Records. In this position, he helps develop new American music and potential stars, and works to bridge the gap between commercial theater and the music industry. Wildhorn resides in North Salem, New York, dividing his time between the East Coast and Los Angeles. He has two sons: Justin, an older son from a previous marriage, and Jake, his son with Eder.
In addition to Houston, Cole, and Rogers, Wildhorn’s music has been performed and recorded by Sammy Davis, Jr., Liza Minelli, Julie Andrews, Freddie Jackson, Peabo Bryson, Linda Eder, Trisha Yearwood, Deana Carter, Tracy Lawrence, John Berry, Trace Adkins, Travis Tritt, Patti La Belle, Bebe Williams, Bryan White, Betty Buckley, Ben Vereen, Regina Bell, the Moody Blues, Jeffrey Osborne, Jennifer Holliday, Stacy Lattisaw, Dennis DeYoung, Molly Hatchet, Brenda Russell, John Raitt, Anthony Warlow, Stanley Turrentine, and Colm Wilkinson.
Jekyll & Hyde: Concept Recording, BMG/RCA Victor, 1990.
The Scarlet Pimpernel: Concept Recording, EMI Angel, 1992.
Jekyll & Hyde: The Complete Work, Atlantic, 1994.
Jekyll & Hyde: Original Broadway Cast, Atlantic Theatre, 1997.
The Scarlet Pimpernel: Original Broadway Cast, Atlantic Theatre, 1998.
The Civil War: Nashville Sessions, Atlantic, 1998.
Jekyll & Hyde: The Bremen Highlights, Polydor, 1999.
The Scarlet Pimpernel: Encore!, Atlantic Theatre, 1999.
The Civil War: The Complete Work, Atlantic Theatre, 1999.
American Record Guide, July/August 1999.
American Theatre, October 1998.
Boston Globe, July 20, 2000.
Forbes, March 22, 1999.
Los Angeles Times, September 5, 1999.
New York Times, November 10, 2000; September 17, 2000.
People, June 22, 1998.
Time, December 22, 1997; May 3, 1999.
USC Trojan Family Magazine, Spring 2000.
Wall Street Journal, March 4, 1999.
Washington Post, July 9, 2000.
Official Frank Wildhorn Website, http://www.frankwildhorn.com (December 13, 2000).
The Scarlet Pimpernel website, http://www.thepimpernel.com (December 13, 2000).
"Wildhorn, Frank." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/wildhorn-frank
"Wildhorn, Frank." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/wildhorn-frank