BWW Interview: Haley Swindal and Will Nunziata Preview SING HAPPY- Streaming Tonight!
Tonight, June 26 (8pm EST), Broadway on Demand will premiere Haley Swindal's 54 Below show, "Sing Happy: The Songs of Liza Minnelli." The broadcast will be free and available on the site indefinitely.
The streaming theatrical-concert-event features Haley putting her brassy stamp on the greatest songs ever sung by Liza Minnelli. Directed by award-winning director Will Nunziata, songs include "Maybe This Time," "Teach Me Tonight," "Cabaret," "Losing My Mind," "Stepping Out," and more.
The team included: Andrew Black (choreographer), Waldemar Quinoes-Villanueva (dancer), Rashaan James (backup dancer), Scott Cady (musical director, arranger, pianist), Tony Tedesco (drums), Elizabeth Nielsen (violin), John Beal (bass) and Dave Riekenberg (reeds).
Below, BroadwayWorld checks in with Haley and Will ahead of the premiere!
Where did the idea to create a show of Liza's songs originally come from?
HS: I have always adored Liza because she is unapologetically herself. She created her own path with style and flair! I admire her immensely for that. I adore Liza's songbook because so many of the songs she chose are about characters that are equal parts vulnerable and strong. They are complex. They are beautifully complicated. They ask big questions, and they make big choices! And so, when Will came to me with this concept, I just had to "SAY YES!" Fast forward to bringing on incredible musical director Scott Cady, a five piece band, choreographer Andrew Black, and brilliant Broadway dancers Rashaan James and Waldemar Quiones-Vilanueva, and we had our show!!!
WN: I knew that Haley and I wanted to create a theatrical-concert. Liza's songbook (if you were to just look at the lyrics of the songs she has made famous) could be a play within itself - and they spoke to me as a creator and a director for Haley - and so when all the lyrics and her stories were put on paper, a new "play" was created around Haley's story of trials, triumph, hope, and inspiration.
How exciting that you get to share it with an even bigger audience now! What kind of reaction did you get from the crowds at 54?
WN: I'm incredibly excited! The way I directed it, I always felt it had a "PBS Special" feel to it, so Broadway on Demand is the new PBS I suppose! The reaction from the crowds were wonderful. The most common reaction was "Wow, I have never seen something like that at 54 Below. It felt like it belonged in a theatre."
HS: We were so oversold every show they had to add extra seats at the bar! It's always thrilling with a new show. I just throw my heart into it, connect with the other humans in the room with me, and hopefully share an evening that makes them feel better in some way than before they came to my show. But people loved it. And, in the broadcast you were going to see, I was SO NERVOUS because Stephen Sondheim was in the audience and I was singing several of his songs. He was so kind and warm to me afterwards, and told me I was "wonderful!" and how much he enjoyed it. I feel like if I never get another compliment for the rest of my life after that, I'll be ok.
What did you enjoy the most about working with Will on this project?
HS: Will and I had collaborated together on our show "Golden Girl," which sold out 54 Below a year or so before. I adore his vision, his directing style, his honesty, and his ability to bring out the best in me. He just GETS working with brassy, strong women, he GETS my vulnerable side, and his passion and work ethic are infectious. We are always collaborating on one thing or another, and I imagine we will be doing so as long as he decides to keep putting up with me.
In doing this show, did you learn anything about Liza that you think most people don't know?
HS: Maybe I'm the only one who didn't know this, but she sang a disco version of "Losing My Mind!"
Is there a song from this show that stands out as a favorite?
HS: It's funny- different songs mean different things at different phases of one's life. My Encore, "I'll Be Seeing You," ends my evening. As we all stand here now, unable to see one another, unable to do and see what it is we love-the theatre- it now kind of feels like a love song to everyone watching out there. That the theatre will survive and get through this. We will see each other again. And life will be a "Cabaret" again.
Why should people tune in to see Sing Happy on Friday (and beyond)?
WN: Haley is a once-in-a-generation artist. Her talent is limitless. Her commitment to excellence is fierce. I am so proud of the work we did - especially her digging into songs like she has never dug before - leaning into the idea that there's "strength in restraint" and to trust her instincts. And when the two of us get in a room, whether it's working on a musical or a concert together as Director and Leading Lady respectively, we come from a place of respect and "best idea wins." This concert is only a 60 minute version of a bigger, theatrical two-act show. I am so happy that a greater audience will get a "sneak peek" at just the beginning. We also have a few ideas up our sleeves, so people should stay tuned for sure!
Watch Haley here starting tonight at 8pm!
Broadway powerhouse Haley Swindal has appeared on Broadway playing Mama Morton in Chicago, Jekyll and Hyde, on tour with White Christmas and Jesus Christ Superstar, and at Lincoln Center in The Secret Garden. She has performed in concert at Carnegie Hall alongside the great standards vocalist Steve Tyrell, acclaimed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, and under the baton of Steven Reineke with the New York Pops Orchestra. She won a New York Emmy for her appearance on "Kids On Deck" and she recently finished filming the live-action film remake of Anastasia, which will appear in theaters next year, in which she played Tsarina Romanov opposite Brandon Routh. Off Broadway credits include: Sistas, This One's for the Girls, and Out of this World. Haley's sold-out one woman show, "Sing Happy," has sold out Broadway's 54 Below throughout the past year.
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