Brown met Grande before she was a superstar, when she was in the 2008 Broadway cast of his teen musical “13.” The two have kept in touch ever since — which explains how he ended up writing the tune “Jason’s Song (Give It Away)” for her 2016 album “Dangerous Woman,” and then performing it with her at a couple of high-profile venues.
“I got to do two things that I never thought I was going to be able to do,” said Brown on the latest episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. “I got to play with her at Madison Square Garden — which, if you’re a playing musician, that’s pretty cool. And then I got to play that song with her and the Roots on “[The Tonight Show Starring] Jimmy Fallon.” That was never going to happen in my life.”
Brown, who won Tony Awards for his scores to “Parade” and “The Bridges of Madison County,” is a performer himself, playing concerts once a month as part of his residency at downtown Manhattan venue SubCulture. His latest solo album, “How We React and How We Recover” (released in June), features a number of the new songs he’s premiered at SubCulture.
Meanwhile, he’s got a new recording of his musical-theater work dropping later this month: “Songs for a New World,” the cast recording of last year’s much-lauded staging of Brown’s breakout hit, arrives Jan. 25.
The busy composer — he’s currently at work on new musicals with collaborators including Daisy Prince and Billy Crystal, as well as a stage version of “Farewell My Concubine” — said that, despite his regular presence on Broadway, he doesn’t really see himself as a Broadway composer.
“There’s a whole brand of what Broadway is supposed to be, on a national level,” he said on Stagecraft. “And if you look at what that brand is, it’s chaser lights and it’s jazz hands and it’s tap dancing and it’s big, belty high notes, and stuff that isn’t in any of my work. … I don’t want to write for Broadway the Brand. It doesn’t interest me at all. I just want to write for the theater. I love the theater, and it happens that Broadway is where the theater gets the most attention. So I would love my work to get all the attention it can.”
He also revealed what advice he’d give to young composers, what recent musical he considers “the perfect show,” and which of his own musicals he considers hardest to pull off. Meanwhile, if you’re hoping for Grande to star in a new musical written by Brown: Maybe, but don’t hold your breath.
“I don’t know that there’s a lot in it for her to do that yet,” he said. “But I am hoping that when I am in my late 60s and she has finally said, ‘Enough with the touring, and enough with all the crazy people,’ that she says, ‘It’s time for me to go do the Jason Robert Brown musical.’ And what I presume will be the last show I write, so I can retire, will be the big Ariana Grande musical.”
New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on iTunes, Stitcher, or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.