Composer Peter Melnick was Drama Desk-nominated for the music for Adrift in Macao, (book & lyrics by Christopher Durang). He also composed the score to Twyla Tharp's Sextet, and with Bill Russell (book & lyrics for Side Show) wrote musical one-acts Patter for the Floating Lady, based on Steve Martin's eponymous play, and A Bad Spell.
Melnick's new show, The Last Smoker in America, is a farce-driven rock musical, also with librettist Bill Russell. Smoker takes place in the America of tomorrow, where cigarettes have been outlawed, and the government is in your kitchen, sniffing for contraband. The extreme anti-smoking laws test the sanity of one suburban family. Pam is having an impossible time trying to quit. Her husband Ernie retreats to the basement to relive the rock star dreams of his youth, while their teenage son Jimmy only turns away from his videogames to explore his gangster rapper persona. Adding to the dysfunctional dynamic is anti-smoking fanatic Phyllis, the neighbor who can't keep her nose out of everyone else's business. Smoker was the hit of the New York Musical Theater Festival in 2009, followed by a run in Columbus, OH, in 2010. The show premieres Off-Broadway at the Westside Theatre in early August 2012.
Melnick is currently adapting Pete Hamill's Snow in August for Broadway, collaborating with book-writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Spiderman, and the TV series Glee), and lyricist Mindi Dickstein (Little Women).
He has also contributed scores to over thirty films, television shows and documentaries. His scoring credits include the Steve Martin comedy L.A. Story; The Only Thrill, with Diane Keaton and Sam Shepard; Horton Foote's Convicts, with Robert Duvall and James Earl Jones; and Bob Saget's truly obscene Farce of the Penguins, with penguins. His television credits include PBS feature-length documentary, Cinema's Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood; Indictment: The McMartin Trial; Grand Avenue; and Lily Dale, also by Horton Foote.
Melnick attended Harvard College, Berklee College of Music, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He also studied privately with jazz pianist Jaki Byard. (Disclosure: he dropped out of Harvard one year shy of a degree in order to study music at Berklee, which he similarly abandoned seven semesters later when offered his first film scoring assignment. He does, however, have a perfectly nice high school diploma, of which he is inordinately proud.) Melnick grew up in New York, the product of an extraordinary entertainment family. His father was the late film producer Daniel Melnick (All That Jazz, Straw Dogs, Altered States, Footloose, Roxanne, That's Entertainment, and the seminal television comedy Get Smart). His mother is Linda Rodgers (composer of "Three to Make Music," "A Child's Introduction to Jazz" and numerous popular childrenis songs) and his grandfather was legendary composer Richard Rodgers.
Melnick now divides his time between New York and a home in Montecito, California. Raised in the New York tradition of bagels-and-lox secular Judaism, Melnick has since connected with the Jewish community in a more active way. He became an adult bar-mitzvah in his thirties, and subsequently had the joy of teaching his own son how to chant Torah. He currently chairs the Israel Committee of Santa Barbara (www.ic-sb.org), a group that fosters support for Israel through educational programs and other forms of nuanced advocacy, and he serves as president of the Community Shul of Montecito and Santa Barbara. Israel and its complexities are his third great passion, after family and musical theater.