Stuart Brown


courtesy of Stuart Brown

When Stuart Brown was a deejay at WRSU-FM at Rutgers University–New Brunswick in the late 1970s, he hosted two three-hour radio programs—one devoted to new wave music and the other to Broadway show tunes. This year, Brown RC’79 debuted a 24/7 online Broadway music radio station, Sounds of Broadway (, featuring roughly 4,000 songs from about 500 musicals that appeared on Off-Broadway, Broadway, and London stages. He explains the idea behind his new show.

RUTGERS MAGAZINE: Why did you start Sounds of Broadway?

STUART BROWN: Ever since joining WRSU in fall 1975, I have always thought it would be a lot of fun to run my own radio station, programing music that I thought listeners would want to hear. Since I didn’t have the funds to buy a radio station, my daydream became a passing fancy. Flash forward to today, and the technology is available to own and run your own online radio station for not much money. Very quickly, Sounds of Broadway became a reality. I developed a logo; had a website built; downloaded more than 4,000 songs from my collection of original cast recordings into my online database (from more than 500 musicals); created phone apps; and, voila, Sounds of Broadway was born. It runs 24/7, 365 days a year. The station went live in March 2019.  

RM: What is your goal with the station?

SB: First, to entertain. There is so much great show music from Off-Broadway, Broadway, and the London stage. I want to bring a variety of songs, styles, genres to my audience. Second, to educate. I want to introduce listeners to musicals that span from the very first complete cast recordings, in the early 1940s, to the most current. I also want to acquaint my audience with gems from little-known shows and even flops. In addition, I provide historical perspectives about the musicals and the people that created the shows.

RM: It looks like you broadcast specialty shows during the week.

SB: Yes. I have created segments that feature specialty programs such as Just Overtures: Title Songs of Musicals; songs from the Forbidden Broadway series (these revues were parodies of musicals); musicals from the glory days of MGM musicals; and others. The weekly schedule is available at my website,

RM: Do you podcast any portion of the radio show?

SB: Before I started Sounds of Broadway, I had been podcasting a program, called On Broadway, from a weekly Broadway music radio show based at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Each week, the program, which I had for 25 years, had a theme. It could spotlight a specific performer (Patti LuPone, Ethel Merman), a period in theater history, or a general theme (summer, weddings, dancing). I would also feature new cast album releases. But I stopped once Sounds of Broadway went live. Well, I kept getting email from people wondering what happened to the podcast. Even though I was now broadcasting 24/7, they still wanted to listen to a podcast. So, I reinstituted it. 

RM: Does the format for your new show allow you to provide commentary between a selection of songs? Or do you reserve that for your weekly podcasts you recently reintroduced? 

SB: Sounds of Broadway has portions of its broadcasting day that are automated, during which the song selection is rotating through the catalog of songs. This occurs primarily in the overnight hours, midnight to 10 a.m. During the 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. period, I create playlists, which include commentary and more extensive information about the songs. This can include the name of the show, artist, composer, and historical or fun fact information about what has been played.

RM: What is it about show music—versus, say, new wave, country, or rock ’n’ roll—that is particularly appealing to you? 

SB: I like many genres of music. I still listen to music from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and new wave or alternate rock. I enjoy songs that have a good melody, a terrific hook, and clever lyrics. I find show music overflowing with these characteristics.  

RM: Grease was the first musical that really enthralled you. How so? 

SB: Grease was the first show that I saw, and it has stuck with me all these years. Also, it was a terrific show, very tuneful, and very funny. It was 1972, and I was a freshman in high school in central New Jersey. A friend and I took the bus to New York City. Unfortunately, the show we were planning to see had closed, so we had to come up with an alternative plan. We wandered around Time Square looking at the theater marquees and finally settled on Grease. It looked intriguing and it was. A rollicking good time: great songs, hilarious, and a bit risqué for the times. We paid full price for a Saturday matinee. It was less than $8 a ticket for orchestra seats!

RM: Do you have a favorite period of Broadway productions? 

SB: It’s hard to say. Probably the mid 1940s through the early ’70s. You had so many great composers at their peak writing classic musicals: Rodgers and Hammerstein (Oklahoma!, Carousel, The King and I), Cole Porter (Kiss Me, Kate), Irving Berlin (Annie Get Your Gun), Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock (Fiddler on the Roof), and John Kander and Fred Ebb (Cabaret). 

RM: During the two-hour window each night when you take requests, are you seeing trends in people’s favorite song requests?  

SB: It’s a real mixture of current shows and musicals from, let’s say, the golden age of musicals—the 1940s and 1950s.

RM: What are some of your favorite songwriters and composers? 

SB: Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and Harold Rome.

RM: Name three or four shows that you think were revolutionary for their time and why. 

SB: Of the shows with the original cast that I have seen, my first choice is A Chorus Line. Dancers in the chorus line came front and center for the first time. Also, the way the show, by using interviews with dancers and workshops, was more organic. This had not been done. My second choice would be The Producers. Besides a dream cast headed by Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, a sumptuous score, and great direction, the musical was the first to create premium seating pricing. For better or worse, this is now standard for every Broadway show. Third? Hamilton. There had been rap and hip-hop on Broadway before, along with multi-racial casting, but Hamilton melded these aspects, along with incredible choreography and direction, into the juggernaut it has become. Shows such as Oklahoma! (the first show that truly integrated the book, score, and dance into a cohesive whole) and Hair (the first rock musical) were revolutionary in their day.

RM: How many shows have you seen?

SB: I am a member of the Outer Critics Circle, one of the three main award groups out of New York City (the other two being the Tonys and Drama Desk). As part of that group, I see 25 to 30 Broadway and Off-Broadway shows a year. I am also the president of Connecticut Critics Circle, consisting of theater critics covering Connecticut theater. So, I see 30 to 40 Connecticut shows a year. For the past five years, I’ve been averaging 70 to 80 musicals and plays a year. From 1972 to the present, I have seen between 400 to 500 Off-Broadway and Broadway shows and another 200 to 250 Connecticut shows.

RM: How did you accumulate your inventory of 4,000 songs and counting? 

SB: I have been collecting original cast recordings since the early 1970s. When CDs became popular, I bought the CD versions. I have more than 1,000 CDs. Now, I receive digital copies of cast albums from the record labels. Since I have to digitize songs in order to upload them, I prefer the digital versions. I spent weeks digitizing my CD collection, which is up to the 4,200+ songs in my radio station database. 

RM: And what are some of your tactics to find rare tracks, such as tunes from shows that were jettisoned before shows got to Broadway, not to mention actual recordings of them? 

SB: A number of years ago, the Varese Sarabande label released a series of studio recordings called “Lost in Boston” and “Unsung Musicals.” The former was made up of songs cut from Broadway shows during their out-of-town tryouts. The “Unsung” are from shows that never received a cast recording, usually because they closed so quickly after opening on Broadway. There are also other collections on smaller labels I’ve been able to uncover. 

RM: Do you have the means for tracking the demographics of your listeners? If so, what has the information revealed? 

SB: I can see what state or country listeners are from and what device they are using. In April, I unveiled an iPhone and Android phone app (there is a quick link on my website) as well as one for the Amazon Echo. I think these have helped expand my listenership.