MEL MARVIN has maintained an active and successful career as a composer of music for theater and opera for over 50 years. He is well known as a prolific artist with a wide range of ability, and his body of work – so far - includes scores for 30 works of musical theater, 47 plays, 3 films and 3 operas. His work as a director encompasses operas, plays and musicals. He has also been, for many years, an Arts Professor at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he is Head Composer and Director of Production at the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.
On Broadway: his musical Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which opened at the Hilton Theatre (now known as the Lyric Theatre) in 2006 and continued at the St. James Theatre in 2007. The Grinch has had three further holiday runs in New York at Madison Square Garden Theater, most recently in 2018. With book and lyrics by longtime collaborator Timothy Mason, The Grinch, directed by Jack O’Brien and Matt August, has also been running for 19 consecutive sold-out seasons at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego and began an ongoing yearly national tour in 2008-2009, along with a special production for the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in 2015 and 2016, and a new production that played 5 cities in the UK in 2019-2020. The Grinch is one of six musicals Mel originally wrote for Minneapolis’s Children’s Theatre Company and for his daughter, Kate.
Also on Broadway: he received two Tony nominations as a co-author of Tintypes, wrote the music for the Broadway productions of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Yentl and Christopher Durang’s A History of the American Film, co-conceived and arranged The Gershwins’ Fascinating Rhythm, and wrote the score for Shakespeare’s Cymbeline at Lincoln Center Theater. ( In a panic-inducing coincidence, Cymbeline and The Grinch opened on Broadway on the same night.)
Off-Broadway: his many productions include The Portable Pioneer and Prairie Show, (originally commissioned by the Guthrie Theater) at The Melting Pot, Variety Obit at the Cherry Lane, Sybille Pearson's True History and Real Adventures at The Vineyard, Marvin’s Garden and Prizewinning Plays at the Manhattan Theatre Club, Legs at Musical Theatre Works, Das Lusitania Songspiel (with Chris Durang and Sigourney Weaver), Polly, The Prince of Homburg, Lincoln, and Green Pond at Chelsea Theatre Center, and Measure for Measure at Lincoln Center Theater.
Other musical theatre works include Elmer Gantry, book by John Bishop and lyrics by Bob Satuloff, first produced at Ford’s Theatre and most recently revived in 2014 at D.C.’s Signature Theatre in a new production directed by Eric Schaeffer; Great Expectations, written with author John Jakes, produced by Goodspeed Musicals; Perfect 36, written with Laura Harrington, for Tennessee Rep in Nashville; and Gold, written with Timothy Mason, commissioned and produced by London’s National Theatre. His musical, Eden, written with Jonathan Levi, received a developmental workshop at the Eugene O'Neill Musical Theater Conference in July, 2010, and was seen at the Public Theater’s Joe's Pub in 2011. Joan of Arc, a music/theatre work written with Laura Harrington, received a new production by Nautilus Chamber Theatre in the Fall of 2011 and was revived in 2012.
At regional theatres, Mel has served as composer or director of scores of productions, including The Mark Taper Forum, where he was an associate artist and wrote the original music for the world premiere production of both parts of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, directed by Oskar Eustis; Hartford Stage Company (where he wrote the music for many of Mark Lamos’s Shakespeare productions); Lincoln Center Theater; Arena Stage; The Guthrie Theater (where he most recently wrote a new incidental score for Hamlet); American Repertory Theatre; St. Louis Repertory Theatre; Arizona Theatre Company; Ford’s Theatre; The Old Globe; and La Jolla Playhouse.
As a director, his work includes both classical and contemporary plays (i.e., Ibsen’s Ghosts, Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class, Stoppard’s The Real Thing), as well as a focus on new opera, with Different Fields, by Mike Reid and Sarah Schlesinger developed for the Metropolitan Opera Guild and the first production in New York’s New Victory Theater; and The Scrimshaw Violin, an opera by Bruce Saylor and Jonathan Levi directed at the 92nd St. Y. He also directed the world premiere of Josh Rosenblum and Joanne Lessner’s musical, Fermat’s Last Tango, at the York Theater Company. He co-directed, with Charles Haid, The Last Supper, a short film that won the Environmental Film Festival Award.
Opera became Mel’s focus later in his career, and he made his debut as an opera composer in 2004 with two works, both written with librettist Jonathan Levi. Guest from the Future, commissioned by Nine Circles Chamber Theatre, premiered at the Bard Summerscape Festival in August, 2004, and Buwalsky, A Road Opera, commissioned by Holland’s Opera Spanga, premiered in The Netherlands then toured in the U.S. the same year, including performances at Yale’s Iseman Theatre and NYU's Skirball Center. Levi and Marvin’s new work,Truth and Reconciliation, premiered at NYC’s Opera America in January 2020.
A full List of Works can be found in the Productions section of this site.
Service: Mel has been a member of the Board of Directors of Theatre Communications Group, as well as the recipient of many grants and awards, including three from the National Endowment for the Arts, and he has been a member of many grants panels. He was for many years a mentor for the National Music Theater Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, and he continues to serve on TCG’s Alumni Board of Directors.
Mel’s parallel career as a teacher began in 1989, when he was asked to join the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts as a guest mentor. He became an adjunct composer and director in 1991, joined the full-time faculty in 1995, became Head Faculty Composer in 1998, Associate Arts Professor in 2004, and Arts Professor in 2014. In 2012, Mel received Tisch's David Payne Carter Award for Teaching Excellence.