Brian Brolly

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The Independent Online

Brian Thomas Brolly, theatre, film, television and record producer: born London 21 October 1936: married 1963 Gillian Adams (two sons); died London 28 October 2006.

In 1969 Brian Brolly sanctioned a double album of a new rock musical, Jesus Christ Superstar. When the record was completed in October 1970, he wrote to Decca in New York,

This is a truly monumental work. I have no doubts at all of its outstanding aesthetic values and absolutely no doubt that creative and aggressive selling and promotion will make this set one of the biggest-selling albums in our history.

Brolly was right and, although he nursed some failures, he seemed to know instinctively what the public would favour.

Brian Brolly was born in London in 1936 and educated at St Dunstan's College. His father, an Ulsterman, Tom Brolly, played soccer for Millwall and Crystal Palace and was capped four times for Northern Ireland. Brolly himself played rugby for London Irish.

When only 26, Brolly became a vice-president for MCA in London and he produced Charlie Chaplin's final film, A Countess from Hong Kong (1967) and Michael Crawford and Oliver Reed in The Jokers (also 1967). He produced the television film The Snow Goose (1971) with Richard Harris and Jenny Agutter and the highly successful war series Colditz (1972-74).

Unlike many executives in this industry, Brolly spoke quietly but with a passion for his projects. He thought that Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's concept of a religious musical through the eyes of Judas was brilliant. He authorised a lavish single, "Jesus Christ Superstar", by Murray Head. This became an international hit and led to Brolly's commissioning the full score. The musical itself opened on Broadway in 1971 and, amidst immense controversy, in London the following year. It ran for eight years and toured the UK for several more.

Paul and Linda McCartney were impressed by Brolly's business acumen and in 1973 invited him to become the managing director of MPL Communications, their new music- publishing company. Their first project was the international best-seller Band on the Run (1973). Brolly knew how to promote McCartney's career and he encouraged him to make sound investments.

In 1978, Lloyd Webber invited Brolly to become the first managing director of the Really Useful Group, offering him a 30 per cent stake. Brolly had to oversee numerous international productions of Cats, Starlight Express and Phantom of the Opera. When the company was floated in 1986, Brolly sold half his stock, becoming a multi- millionaire. Three years later he fell out with Lloyd Webber over the direction of the business.

Brolly nurtured the concept of a classical music station that was more populist than Radio 3, and Classic FM was launched in 1992 to immediate and continued success. After a tryout in Vienna, Brolly had high hopes for a musical, Freudiana, by Alan Parsons, but further productions were stopped by a law suit. Brolly promoted West End appearances by Simon Callow and Fascinating Aida. In 2003, he staged a revival of The Flower Drum Song on Broadway.

Spencer Leigh

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