Composer Michael Friedman dead at age 41

Friedman, the composer and lyricist, on the roof of Playwrights Horizons in New York, May 21, 2008.

Friedman, the composer and lyricist, on the roof of Playwrights Horizons in New York, May 21, 2008. New York Times

Theater composer Michael Friedman died on Saturday, a casualty of AIDS at the young age of 41. He's best-known as the co-creator of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, a rock musical that caused a sensation when it hit Broadway in 2010. His newest show, by coincidence, is set to have its world premiere this very week at the Children's Theatre Company (CTC) in Minneapolis. 

Friedman wrote the music and lyrics for The Abominables, which comes billed as "the first Minnesota hockey musical." The show, recommended for ages 8 and up, is a co-production with the Civilians, a NYC-based troupe that counts Friedman among its founding artists. Steve Cosson, also of the Civilians, wrote the Abominables book and directs CTC's production.

"While we are deeply saddened that Michael will not see the world premiere," wrote CTC in a statement released on Sunday, "we feel fortunate to be able to bring one of his final works of art to the stage and share his artistry with the community, in particular, with children and families." 

Friedman was known for his many shows with the Civilians, and particularly for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. A dark comedy about the founding of the Democratic Party, it was hailed as a timely comment on the dangers of American populism. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton — another presidential musical — wrote on Twitter this weekend that he's "aching with gratitude for the music & joy" Friedman gave us. "Mourning all the music we'll never hear." 

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson was controversial, however, sparking widespread criticism from Native communities. When Minneapolis Musical Theatre produced the play at the New Century Theatre in 2014, local Navajo playwright Rhiana Yazzie criticized Bloody Bloody as "an exercise in racial slurs against Native Americans justified with a thin coating of white shaming."

Among Friedman's other musicals was Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play, a Simpsons-inspired play that premiered in 2012 and was staged at the Guthrie Theater in 2015. The Abominables starts previews Tuesday night at CTC.

"Michael was an extraordinary artist and an incredible human being,” said Peter C. Brosius, CTC's artistic director, in a statement. “He was brilliant, wildly funny and so deeply caring about other people. Michael was such a joy; his boundless energy, his infectious enthusiasm and his ability to be so fearlessly self-critical and clear eyed in the pursuit of something truly extraordinary made him utterly unique."