FST's latest hit Cabaret, The '70s: More Than A Decade, opens with “A Fifth of Beethoven” written by Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band and adapted by FST Resident Pianist Jim Prosser.
“Jim takes classical and well-known songs and turns them on their heads," said Managing Director and Cabaret Developer Rebecca Hopkins. "He wants audiences to know the words and the music. He wants the audience to love the music and the show as much as he does.”
Today, not only can you hear Jim's original arrangements —you can also see him perform them night after night in The '70s: More Than a Decade. You can also hear his musical arrangements in A Place in the Sun: A Tribute to Stevie Wonder, which he created alongside Scott Michaelsen.
For many, the name “Jim Prosser” is synonymous with “Florida Studio Theatre.” And there’s a good reason for that. Since Jim first joined FST as an intern 30 years ago, he has become a fixture of the theatre.
“I remember during his interview, when I asked Jim what he wanted to do for a living, Jim said that he wanted to write music for children,” said Producing Artistic Director Richard Hopkins. “He was enthusiastic and just out of school. He had this great ability to create music that spoke to kids.”
Within a year, Jim was hired as a full-time staff member. And now, with the 2022-2023 Winter Season, Jim is celebrating his 30th Anniversary with Florida Studio Theatre.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Jim’s unmatched love for music can be traced back to his father, Hal Prosser, who would always have musical theatre soundtracks, The Beatles, or classical music playing in the background.
Growing up, Jim was always writing songs. But his first real opportunity to show off his talents came his junior year of high school.
“We were doing a revue called Among Friends, made up of original, student-written material, and I had a bunch of songs that I had already created that they adapted and incorporated into the show,” explained Prosser.
Jim’s creations were so remarkable that the school asked him to write for other shows—even after he had graduated. He then went to college to study Music Theory and Composition, and in 1992, arrived at FST as an intern.
“I like to joke that Jim’s mom dropped him off at FST’s doorstep when he was an infant, because that’s how it feels,” said Richard Hopkins. “It feels like Jim has just always been here.”
WHERE HE IS NOW
Since his arrival at FST 30 years ago, Jim has helped develop almost 60 original Cabarets, composed the music for two decades worth of Children’s Theatre productions, provided musical accompaniment for almost every Sarasota Improv Festival, created music for countless Summer Camp and Youth Ed recitals, and served as a musical improviser for goodness-knows how many FST Improv performances.
And yet, his passion for the theatre has never dimmed. "Jim is the type of person who, if he has a night off, will come and see the other shows running at FST to help support his friends,” said Rebecca Hopkins.
And FST audiences know and love Jim. He often gets the loudest applause during curtain calls. But what is next for Mr. Jim Prosser?
“You really never know with Jim,” said Richard Hopkins. “He’s this unique, multi-faceted human being who does so much that I am never quite sure what to expect. One thing is for sure—Jim is and will always be an institution at FST.”