Bill Elliott


William Elliott
"William “Bill” Elliott (1944-1985) was born in Charlotte, NC, where he learned old vaudeville songs and routines from his father, an ex-vaudeville performer who died in 1962. At the age of 19 Elliott moved to New York City and began writing music for Off-Off-Broadway productions in Greenwich Village. One of the first was a play by Tom Eyen called Little Miss Frustrata, which was produced in 1964 by La Mama E.T.C. He wrote the music for at least two other Eyen plays, Can(’t) You See a Prince? and Cinderella Revisited, both produced in 1965. According to an article in the New York Times, Elliott spent two years in Rome, and conducted the Italian production of Hair (opened Sept. 5, 1970).

From 1971-1978 Elliott was a musical director for the experimental theatre La Mama E.T.C. This venue provided the foundation for his later success, evidence of which is in the OBIE award he won for the music to C.O.R.F.A.X. (Don’t Ask) in 1974. Over the next three years he attended classes at Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music, but through their Extension Division rather than a formal degree program. His association with the New York Shakespeare Festival and the Public Theater began in 1976, when he wrote incidental music for Henry V. During this time he also won a National Endowment of the Arts grant, which he used to study at the Aspen Music School under Michael Czajkowski.

The next major project for Elliott was as a vocal arranger for Ain’t Misbehavin’, a musical based on songs by Fats Waller. He contributed arrangements for five songs, several of which earned critical praise (e.g. Black and Blue, The Jitterbug Waltz). Other work for the Public Theatre, including Othello (1979) and Mother Courage (1980), put Elliott in line for the job that would be his greatest accomplishment - adapting Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance for a new audience. Elliott conducted both the Central Park and Broadway productions, and was in charge of the music for the cast recording, the feature film, as well as the Los Angeles and London productions.

He continued his involvement with Off-Broadway productions for the remainder of his life, specifically as conductor, arranger, etc. for Non Pasquale (1983; an adaptation of the opera Don Pasquale by Donizetti) and serving as musical supervisor for a version of La Boheme (1984). He died of causes related to AIDS on October 22, 1985."