The New York Musical Theatre Festival is in full swing, and while it’s impossible to see everything, you should definitely check some of the shows out. Don’t forget, this is where [title of show], Yank!, and Next to Normal began! One of the shows we’re seeing is For Tonight. We talked to Shanelle Williams, the co-composer and co-lyrist, about the show and its journey to New York.
Shanelle’s collaborator on the music and lyrics is actually her husband Spencer Williams. They met in college and starting writing music together, and people would comment on how their sound would work well in musical theatre. As theatre lovers themselves, they thought they’d try their hand at it. The idea for For Tonight actually came from Spencer’s own great-great-great grandfather. Teaming up with book writer Whitney Rhodes, the show follows the lives of siblings in Wales after the loss of their parents. The music of the show does have Welsh influence, including a Welsh folksong “Suo Gan,” but Shanelle describes the overall sound as “somewhere between musical theatre and Nickel Creek and Coldplay.”
NYMF will be the show’s public debut, having only presented one private reading about a year ago. After editing, they submitted show to NYMF. When they received the call that they had been accepted, Shanelle was almost nine months pregnant. And while the prospect of coming out to New York, doing more rewrites, and putting on your show may seem daunting enough without a new baby, Shanelle says it has been a great experience. Only a few the actors have been with project since the beginning, but working with a New York director Joe Barros and musical director Drew Wutke who knew the mostly New York cast helped everyone smoothly collaborate on this fantastic production. We can’t wait to see this new work from these up-and-coming writers!
And of course the best way for us to get to know Shanelle was to give her our questionnaire. Here’s what she had to say!
Patty & Emily: Do you know Beth Leavel?
Shanelle Williams: No.
P&E: Which show do you most want revived?
SW: Oh, that’s a tough one because there’s been a lot revivals lately of things I have wanted revived and now they’re all coming true. Spencer’s in the room here. He likes to pitch in. He’s excited about On the Town right now. And I haven’t seen that one, so I guess I’m excited about that one was well. Oh, Side Show is another. Put down Side Show.
P&E: Have you ever fallen asleep on stage while pretending to be asleep or dead on stage?
SW: Uh, no but one time I did fall asleep in the orchestra pit. Fortunately it was only tech rehearsal though.
P&E: What’s your favorite Broadway house?
SW: Oh, I really liked…where did Pippin play?
P&E: The Music Box.
SW: I like that one.
P&E: Do you have a monologue?
SW: No. Heavens no. In fact, I botched an audition, like, three years ago. It had been a long time since I had performed. And I went into this audition; I picked up a monologue the night before, and I totally botched it. So, I definitely don’t have a monologue prepared right now.
P&E: What’s the show you’ve seen the most time?
SW: I think Next to Normal was the show I saw the most.
P&E: Who would you fangirl over?
SW: I’m kind of having a fangirl experience over our leading man in our show. He’s pretty sexy, and he sings amazing. His name’s Brandon Kalm.
P&E: On a scale of 1-10, how bad is the Broadway World message board?
SW: It’s so bad that I never go there.
P&E: Comps and a time machine.
SW: Hmm. I would really like to see the original production of Cabaret.
For Tonight has three performances at NYMF: Wednesday, July 9th at 4pm and 8pm and Saturday, July 12th at 4pm. We’ll be there, and we hope to see you there as well! You can get tickets here.