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William Brohn, Who Made Broadway Orchestras Sing, Dies at 84

Mr. Brohn (rhymes with “bone”) viewed his role as supportive of the composer’s intentions.

“That music is the reason for your existence at this moment, and the central focus for you is to help the composer say what he wants to say,” he wrote in an essay in “The Alchemy of Theatre” (2006), edited by Robert Viagas.

He recalled in the book that he was hooked on “The Secret Garden” when its composer, Lucy Simon, played some of the music on his piano, and that he cried when Claude-Michel Schönberg sang songs in French from “Miss Saigon,” which he wrote with Richard Maltby Jr. and Alain Boublil.

“Bill was a crier,” Mr. Schönberg said in a telephone interview. “He was highly emotional and cried with enthusiasm about everything.”

Mr. Brohn surprised him, he said, particularly in sections of songs where his brass and string orchestrations “didn’t make sense if you listened to them separately.”

But, he added: “When played together they were perfect for the emotion and the message. It was distorted and it was beautiful.”

The current Broadway revival of “Miss Saigon” is faithful to 95 percent of Mr. Brohn’s original orchestrations, Mr. Schönberg said.

William David Brohn was born on March 30, 1933, in Flint, Mich. His father, William, worked in the automotive industry, and his mother, the former Ottilia Pleger, was a nurse.

As a teenager, he said, he was transfixed when he heard the overture of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” on the original Broadway cast album. The orchestra, Mr. Brohn wrote, “soared on the wings of orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett.” Mr. Bennett, who collaborated with George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers and Jerome Kern, became a mentor to Mr. Brohn in the mid-1960s.

Mr. Brohn graduated from Michigan State University, where he studied…

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