A LIFE IN THE THEATRE: Paul Gemignani, the In-Demand Broadway Conductor and Musical Director

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28 Jan 2013

Paul Gemignani
Paul Gemignani
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Meet Paul Gemignani, the frequent musical director of the shows of Stephen Sondheim, and currently leader of the raucous orchestra of Broadway's The Mystery of Edwin Drood.


For Paul Gemignani, conductor and musical director, the thrill of theatre is "trying to shape a show, getting a new show to work. Getting the best orchestrators, the best musicians, and the best performance out of those musicians."

Gemignani has been feeling that excitement on Broadway for more than 40 years. He is best known for his collaborations with composer Stephen Sondheim on such musicals as Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park With George, Passion, Into the Woods, Merrily We Roll Along and Pacific Overtures. Other Broadway credits include Crazy for You, Jerome Robbins' Broadway and On the Twentieth Century.

He has conducted in London's West End, on film and television, and with symphony orchestras. In 2001 he was given a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. These days he's musical director and conductor of Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood at Studio 54.

Gemignani grew up in San Francisco. "My mother played the piano. There was always music in the house. I started piano at seven and hated it. I ended up playing percussion, because I liked it best."

On a jazz gig in 1969, he "came as far as Minneapolis. I'd never been east, so I went to Chicago and took a train to New York. An actor friend introduced me to the musical director of Cabaret," Harold Hastings. "I got a job as assistant conductor and playing in its road show."


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