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Award-Winning Composer Michael Brennan Dies at 47

Renowned for his work in film and theater, he composed soundtracks for all five of Nicolás P. Villarreal’s animated short films, and served as musical director for Broadway tours including ‘Victor/Victoria,’ ‘Cinderella’ and Disney's ‘The Lion King’ and worked on several Las Vegas spectaculars such as ‘Mamma Mia!,’ ‘Avenue Q,’ and ‘Le Reve.’

Michael Brennan, an American composer for film and theater, died unexpectedly at the age of 47. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Brennan was found in his hotel room yesterday while on a short vacation in Florida. He had reportedly told friends on Monday that he wasn’t feeling well and might have COVID. No signs of foul play were reported; the cause of death has yet to be determined.

Animator Nicolás P. Villarreal, a close friend and colleague of the award-winning musician, shared his thoughts with AWN.

“Michael was one of the most talented and hard-working professionals that I have ever met,” Villarreal notes. “We were close friends for 15 years. We did 5 films together, 2 more on the way. He would create the soundtracks for them in one afternoon. His answers would be ‘yep, got it’ - it’s gonna be great – ‘oh my god, I love it’ and then come up with the most incredible scores.”

Brennan recently scored Villarreal’s latest award-winning animated short, On/Off; he also wrote the scores to Villareal’s animated short Todo va mejorando /Things are Looking Up (2020), The House of Colors (2017), Nieta / Granddaughter (2014), and Pasteurized (2012),as well as the horror thriller Eyes of the Dead, written and directed by the Samuels Brothers.

“One time I called him, and he texted me back, ‘I can't pick up the phone, I'm playing the piano at Le Reve. LOL.’,” Villarreal remembered. “He would text and play the piano at the same time. His work blew my mind. The soundtrack of On/Off won 80 Awards. Yes, 80. Michael was a musical genius.”

Early in his career, Brennan was a musical director for Broadway tours Victor/Victoria, Cinderella and Disney's The Lion King at The Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. He was admired and respected in the Las Vegas entertainment community where he worked on Starlight Express at Las Vegas Hilton, Mamma Mia! at Mandalay Bay, Avenue Q and Steve Wynn's Showstoppers, and the aquatic spectacle Le Reve at the Wynn, which won "Best Show in Las Vegas" for 9 consecutive years. While at Le Reve he was a musical director for world renowned composers Benoit Jutras of Cirque Du Soleil and 8-time Oscar winner Alan Menken.

“He was irreplaceable as a person, as a friend and as a professional,” reflects Villarreal. “He was adored by his family, colleagues, and close friends around the world as the most generous, kind, thoughtful and hilarious person you would ever have the honor of knowing.”

Adding, “It was a privilege to know him. I'm sure he would have made some sort of joke about this or tell me ‘God, you are such a drama queen.’”

Debbie Diamond Sarto's picture

Debbie Diamond Sarto is assistant news editor at Animation World Network.