Idea, conception, direction and choreography
Jerome Robbins was born in New York City on October 11, 1918. He was trained in modern dance and ballet and began his career in 1937 as a dancer in musicals. In 1940 he moved over to ballet. The first time he created the choreography for a ballet was in 1944 for the show Fancy Free, which was later made into the musical On the Town. Jerome Robbins became famous as an innovative choreographer for Broadway musicals such as High Button Shoes (1947) and The King and I (1951). Other musicals included Peter Pan (1954) as well as the legendary West Side Story (1957) and Fiddler on the Roof (1964). In 1989 he produced an anthology of his earlier Broadway hits as a large Broadway show under the title Jerome Robbins’ Broadway.
Jerome Robbins was appointed the Associate Artistic Director for the New York City Ballet by George Balanchine in 1949 and from 1983 to 1990 he shared the position of Ballet Master in Chief with Peter Martins. He was a soloist in the New York City Ballet and choreographed nine ballets before he founded Ballets: U.S.A. in 1959. Many of his 66 ballets are still produced by the New York City Ballet, such as Dances at a Gathering (1969) and Goldberg Variations (1971).
Jerome Robbins was a member of the National Council on the Arts from 1974 to 1980 and from 1973 to 1988 was a member of the New York State Council on the Arts/Dance Panel. He established and partially endowed the Jerome Robbins Film Archive of the Dance Collection of the New York City Public Library at the Lincoln Center. He received numerous awards including the Handel Medallion of the City of New York in 1976, the Kennedy Center Honors in 1981 and the National Medal of the Arts in 1988. His academic honors included three Honorary Doctorates and an honorary membership in the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1985.
Jerome Robbins died in 1998 in New York.
The composer, conductor, pianist, teacher and humanitarian Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on August 25, 1918 to Russian Jewish immigrants. After his studies at Harvard College and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia (under teachers such as the legendary Fritz Reiner for conducting) he became the assistant to Sergej Kussewitzky in Tanglewood in 1942 and worked from 1943 to 1944 as an assistant music director at the New York Philharmonic. On November 14, 1943 he stood in for the ailing Bruno Walter in a Carnegie Hall concert and overnight became one of the leading conductors in America. After three years as the Musical Director of the New York City Symphony Orchestra he assumed the same position in Tanglewood from 1951 to 1955 and then in the New York Philharmonic from 1957 to 1958, where in 1958 he succeeded Dimitri Mitropoulos as Principal Conductor. In the seventies, Bernstein was one of the pioneers to initiate the renaissance of Gustav Mahler’s work. In 1986, Leonard Bernstein helped Justus Frantz establish the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival. On December 23 and 25, 1989 he conducted Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in both sections of Berlin to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Leonard Bernstein was the first superstar conductor in the USA. In addition to this work, which took him to all the major orchestras in the world and let him work together with the most famous soloists, he composed music for concerts, ballets, stage and films. He specialized in jazz and new music, with instrumental compositions that were just as successful as his vocal pieces. His best-known compositions include Fancy Free (1944), On the Town (1944), Peter Pan (1950), Trouble in Tahiti (1952), Wonderful Town (1952), Candide (1956), West Side Story (1957), Chichester Psalms (1965), Mass 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (1976) and A Quiet Place (1983). He was a dedicated patron of the world’s youth throughout his lifetime. From 1951 to 1956 he was a professor at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and in 1951 he began his television career as a music commentator and teacher on shows such as Young People‘s Concerts. His works refute the deep-seated prejudice that both serious and entertaining music cannot coexist in the works of a talented composer.
Leonard Bernstein died on October 14, 1990 at his house in New York.
Arthur Laurents was born in New York City on July 14, 1917. He is one of the most successful authors and created musical plays such as West Side Story (1957), Gypsy (1959), Anyone Can Whistle (1964), Do I Hear A Waltz? (1965), Hallelujah Baby! (1967 Tony Award for Best Musical), and Nick&Nora (1991); and the screenplays for The Snake Pit (1948), Rope (1948), Caught (1949), Anastasia (1956), Bonjour Tristesse (1958), The Way We Were (1973), and The Turning Point for which he reveived a Golden Globe Award in 1977, a Screenwriters Guild Award, a Writers Guild of America Award and a National Board of Review Best Picture Award. The last two screenplays were novels as well. His plays include Claudia Lazlo, Home of the Brave, The Time of the Cukoo, A Clearing in the Woods, Invitation to a March, The Enclave, Scream, Two Lives, The Radical Mystique, My Good Name, and Jolson Sings Again.
He has also directed plays and musicals for the theatre among them I Can Get It For You Wholesale (1962), Invitation to a March (1960), Anyone Can Whistle (1964), The Enclave, The Madwoman of Central Park West (1979), Birds of Paradise, three revivals of Gypsy with Angela Lansbury in 1974, with Tyne Daly in 1989, with Patti LuPone in 2007 and La Cage Aux Folles, for which he was honored with a Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical in 1984 and a Sydney Drama Critics Award for Directing in 1985. In 2009, Laurents directed the Broadway revival of West Side Story in New York. He has also written radio episodes for Hollywood Playhouse, Assignment Home, which received a Variety Radio Award in 1945, The Thin Man, Army Service Force Presents, The Man Behind the Gun, and This is Your FBI.
He has been honored with awards from many organizations, among them the National Institute of Arts and Letters, Writers Guild of America, Antoinette Perry (Tonys), Golden Globe, Drama Desk, National Board of Review and the Sydney Drama Critics. He was a member of the Theatre Hall of Fame, P.E.N., the Screenwriters Guild, the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences and is an emeritus member of the Council of the Dramatist Guild.
Arthur Laurents died on May 5, 2011 in his hometown New York.
The composer and lyricist Stephen Joshua Sondheim was born in 1930 to a wealthy New York dress manufacturer. When his parents divorced, his mother moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and young Stephen found himself in the right place at the right time. His mother’s neighbor was Oscar Hammerstein II, who was at the time working on the musical Oklahoma!. It didn’t take long for the adolescent boy to discover his fascination with musical theater, and he consequently began studying music at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and later composition with Milton Babbitt. Like Oscar Hammerstein he would write the occasional pop song (with Jule Styne for Tony Bennett) and dabble in film, but like Hammerstein, his true love remained the theater.
His initial success came in 1957 as a lyricist to Leonard Bernstein on West Side Story, followed by Jule Styne on Gypsy in 1959. He wrote the music and lyrics for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Company (1970), Anyone Can Whistle (1964), Pacific Overtures (1976) and Merrily We Roll Along (1981). He collaborated on Richard Rogers’ Do I Hear A Waltz? (1965) and cemented his reputation as a genius lyricist and composer with Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), Into the Woods (1987), Assassins (1991) and Passion (1994). In 2003, his musical Bounce had its premiere in Chicago while the Off-Broadway version (2008) was named Road Show.
He was President of the Council of the Dramatist Guild from 1973 to 1981. In 1983 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was appointed the first Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University in 1990.
Stephen Sondheim is one of the most successful artists of the musical and theatrical world, who gained nearly all important prices and awards. He is the only composer in the world to win seven Tony Awards and has been honored with the special Tony Award for “Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre” in 2008 and won several Grammys and Olivier Awards. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985 for Sunday in the Park with George and also was honored with the Academy Award for his Song „Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)“ from the movie Dick Tracy.
To mark his 80th birthday there were numerous celebrations around the world: he received the accolade of having a London Prom Concert dedicated to his work. New York’s Henry Miller’s Theatre was renamed The Stephen Sondheim Theatre and a new show Sondheim On Sondheim opened on Broadway. The Royal Academy of Music conferred on him an Honorary Doctorate of the University of London and volume two of his collected and annotated lyrics, Look I Made a Hat, was published. In July 2013 the Stephen Sondheim Society launched The Stephen Sondheim Society Archive.
On Broadway, Lonny Price directed Sunset Boulevard, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, 110 in the Shade, ‘Master Harold’… and the Boys, Sally Marr… and Her Escorts (co-written with Joan Rivers and Erin Sanders), Urban Cowboy, A Class Act (Tony Award nominated book co-written with Linda Kline), and Scotland, PA, which had its world premiere at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Laura Pels Theatre in the Fall of 2019.
West End credits include Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, as well as Sunset Boulevard (with Glenn Close), Sweeney Todd (with Emma Thompson), and Man of La Mancha, all for the English National Opera.
Film and television credits include his film version of the New York Philharmonic’s Sweeney Todd and Company. He also directed the stage and filmed versions of his tribute to Stephen Sondheim, Sondheim: The Birthday Concert! (Emmy Award). Other Philharmonic collaborations include the “Live From Lincoln Center” broadcast of Camelot, Candide, Sweeney Todd (Emmy Award), and Sondheim’s Passion (Emmy Award).
Additional television credits include Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill for HBO, as well as episodes of “2 Broke Girls,” “Desperate Housewives,” and “The Jack and Triumph Show.” For his first feature, ‘Master Harold’ … and the Boys, he received a Best Director Award from the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival. His documentary, Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened premiered at the New York Film Festival and was named one of New York Times’ Top 10 Films of 2016, and his other documentary Hal Prince: The Director’s Life (PBS) was released to critical acclaim as well.
An actor, director and choreographer, Julio has performed on film and television as well as on numerous Broadway and international theater productions. Choreography works include Tony Kushner’s adaptation of Mother Courage and Her Children starring Meryl Streep, and the musical Radiant Baby, both directed by George C. Wolfe. He recently directed the English language US premiere of Jacobo Morales’ play, Bipás, at George Street Playhouse. He also collaborated closely with writer Tony Kushner and served as artistic consultant for the new film version of West Side Story, directed by Steven Spielberg.
Julio has staged Jerome Robbin’s original West Side Story choreography for Pittsburgh Ballet, Opera of Australia, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Tokyo in Stage Around, and at Chungmu Art Center in Seoul, South Korea.
For 10 seasons, Mr. Sturiale led the orchestra for the annual Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall and conducted its original cast album for Sony Records. He was associate conductor for the NY Philharmonic’s presentations of CANDIDE, SWEENEY TODD and COMPANY. On Broadway, he has conducted JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, DREAM and wrote and arranged music for THE LITTLE PRINCE AND THE AVIATOR.
He was musical director for the Off-Broadway revivals of THE ROTHSCHILDS and JUNO, the national tours of BLOOD BROTHERS and THE MUSIC OF ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER, a North American tour of the new musical DURANTE (starring Lonny Price) and a European tour of EVITA.
As a composer, Mr. Sturiale garnered an Outer Critic’s Circle Award nomination for his score for the Off-Broadway musical OLYMPUS ON MY MIND and conducted its New York run and original cast album. He is the recipient of the Theater For The American Musical Award for his musical UNDER FIRE (written with Barry Harman) presented at The New York Musical Theater Festival in 2009.
His musical, KIKI BABY, written with Ellen Fitzhugh and Lonny Price, was presented at the Eugene O’Neill Festival in 2006 and by Primary Stages in NY in 2007. He has written music for ABC TV’s ONE LIFE TO LIVE and arranged and conducted music for ALL MY CHILDREN.
An evening of his work as a composer was presented in the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center, produced by Arts And Artists At St. Paul.
He has conducted for Petula Clark around the world and played the piano for many other luminaries, from Gloria Gaynor to Sergio Franchi to Patti LuPone.
He is a grant recipient from the National Endowment For The Arts and has won numerous ASCAP awards.
Anna Louizos is a New York City based Scenic Designer who has received multiple Tony Award nominations, Emmy and Drama Desk Award nominations for her diverse production designs. Broadway credits include School of Rock (also US Tour, London, Brazil, Australia, China, Korea -for which she designed both sets and costumes) In the Heights, Avenue Q, Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Dames at Sea, High Fidelity, Honeymoon in Vegas, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Curtains, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Golda’s Balcony and others. International productions include West Side Story for Tokios 360 Stage Around Stage Around, a theatre in which the revolving audience is surrounded by scenery. Among her many off -Broadway and regional theatre designs some include the world premiers of The Altar Boyz, Tick, Tick…BOOM, Scotland, PA, Speech and Debate, Sons of the Prophet, Just Jim Dale, Franz Kafka’s The Castle, and Fly, the Musical. USA regional revivals include Romeo and Juliet, Crimes of the Heart, The Foreigner, The Substance of Fire, Much Ado about Nothing, and The School for Scandal for theatres from Connecticut to California.
As television art director credits include Sex and the City, Big Apple and Welcome to New York.
Louizos is also the founder and CEO of Broadway Design Exchange an online marketplace for theatre artists offering sketches, models costumes, and props for collectors.
Martin Flohr has been passionate about music and theatre all his life. While studying economics at university, he gained experience in show business by working on Broadway in New York, in London’s West End, and by travelling all over Europe and Asia as tour manager for STOMP.
In 2006, he joined BB Promotion. As Head of Project & Booking he was responsible for BB Promotion’s own productions, including West Side Story and Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show, and for international touring productions including Cats, Evita, Porgy & Bess, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Tanguera. Due to his special talent for combining creative and organisational processes, he became the company’s Artistic Director in 2014. He bears artistic responsibility for all in-house productions and has executive-produced Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show, West Side Story and We Will Rock You. He also successfully brought Bodyguard – The Musical and Carmen la Cubana to Germany for their German premieres. By creating the concept of BERLIN BERLIN, he is fulfilling his long-held dream of bringing his favourite era to the stage in a great 1920s show.
CEO & Producer Mehr-BB Entertainment
It takes a certain amount of courage to complete a degree in Business Administration and then to leave seeking a long-term adventure. The fact that Ralf Kokemüller took over the management of two hotels on the Venezuelan Isla Margarita in the Caribbean testifies not only to his curiosity to discover new things and his substantial desire for adventure; the fact that he tackled his tasks under difficult conditions over a long period demonstrates his professionalism.
The greatest adventure for Ralf Kokemüller began after his return to Germany: his interest in what brings people together in enthusiastic crowds, whether football, rock concerts or stage shows, spurred him to take the opportunity to join BB Promotion (forerunners of today’s BB Group) in 1995.
Through his close collaboration with the group founder, Michael Brenner, who appointed him as Managing Director after a year, BB Group became one of the most successful live entertainment agencies in Germany and Europe, and the two men’s business acquaintance flourished into a strong friendship which turned into an obligation for Ralf Kokemüller following Michael Brenner’s tragic death.
Passion, pragmatism and a significant portion of dry humour have proven to be a successful combination for Ralf. Responsible for scouting and booking, he has been in charge of numerous internationally acclaimed productions, such as STOMP, Marcel Marceau, Tanguera and YAMATO – The Drummers of Japan, as well as numerous other internationally-acclaimed productions.
As CEO of the BB Group, Ralf Kokemüller, upholds the BB Group’s maxim to discover new and fascinating shows and artists and to realise the high-quality shows with great passion. The productions and co-productions, whose realisation he has been able to celebrate in German-speaking countries, include spectacular show experiences, such as THRILLER – LIVE, Irish Celtic or Soy de Cuba, as well as stage performances and dance productions like Traces or the world-famous Béjart Ballet Lausanne. Added to this are musicals such as the English-language production of Disney’s The Lion King. His latest success is the German original production of BODYGUARD – DAS MUSICAL which premiered in the Musical Dome Cologne in November 2015. Beforehand he had already been involved in the original production of the musical in London’s West End by British producers Michael Harrison and David Ian. In April 2016 he recorded another big success in Paris with the Cuban musical Carmen la Cubana, co-produced with the renowned Théâtre du Châtelet.
Successes like these are not just an expression of Ralf Kokemüller’s passion for first class stage events, they are also a powerful confirmation of his understanding of live entertainment as a “people’s business”, as a business area in which – looking beyond the solid contractual and financial management – personal contact and mutual trust are absolutely essential and indispensable conditions for long-term collaboration.
This understanding of the human factor allows Ralf Kokemüller to lead an increasing number of highly competent and passionately committed staff, the most important capital of BB Group alongside a long tradition with a portfolio of high-quality productions and an extensive international network of artists and producers all over the world.
Innovative projects, such as the cuban productions Ballet Revolución or the recent adaptation of the original CATS show as a theater tent production in German language, which could extend the Group’s portfolio into new areas, all testify to Ralf’s undiminished desire to try out new things.
As Ralf Kokemüller leads the BB Group combining innovative spirit with long experience, the agency succeeds in its ambitious goal to always deliver top-quality groundbreaking live entertainment. Let us enjoy the thrill!