BWW Interview: Music Director Shawn Gough and HOLIDAY INN at Paper Mill Playhouse

BWW Interview: Music Director Shawn Gough and HOLIDAY INN at Paper Mill Playhouse

Paper Mill Playhouse will present Holiday Inn from November 21 through December 30. This spectacular musical has a book by Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge; choreography by Denis Jones; direction by Gordon Greenberg; and musical direction by Shawn Gough.

Based on the beloved Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire film, Jim Hardy leaves behind the hustle and bustle of showbiz for a quiet life on a Connecticut farm. Jim's agrarian efforts are a flop, but things start looking up when he falls for a talented schoolteacher, and together they infuse their sleepy rural setting with some Broadway razzle-dazzle. Fresh from a Broadway run, this heartwarming, toe-tapping production features more than 20 classic songs from the Berlin catalog, including "Easter Parade," "Cheek to Cheek," "Steppin' Out with My Baby," and "White Christmas."

Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Shawn Gough who is the musical director and conductor of Holiday Inn. We had a chance to chat about his career and the upcoming show.

Shawn Gough is a New York City based music director, conductor, arranger and pianist hailing from Charleston, IL who recently conducted Anika Noni Rose in Carmen Jones off-Broadway this summer. He made his Broadway debut as a performer in Violet and conducted Big Fish, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Sunday in the Park with George on
Broadway and served as resident music director and conductor of the 10-time Tony Award winning musical Billy Elliot for its entire Broadway run. He has worked with many other Broadway productions including Aladdin, Annie Get Your Gun, Chicago, The Coast of Utopia, Dames at Sea, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Drowsy Chaperone, The Frogs, Into the Woods, Kiss Me Kate, Les Miserables, The Light in the Piazza, The Lion King, Mary Poppins, The Music Man & Something Rotten!

Shawn's Off-Broadway credits include Lincoln Center Theatre's A Man of No Importance, tick...tick...BOOM! at Jane St. Theatre and Little Fish at Second Stage Theatre. Gough has served as music supervisor for the acclaimed Off-Broadway productions of Shockheaded Peter. Previous Papermill Playhouse productions include Annie, The Color Purple, Pirates! and Happy Days. Television productions include NBC's The Sound Of Music Live! and The Kennedy Center Honors in Washington D.C. He has been a guest conductor with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, the London Symphony, the Portland Symphony, principal conductor for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring The Rockettes, and music supervisor for numerous all-star benefit concerts for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Shawn has worked with artists that include Maya Angelou, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Carol Channing, Sutton Foster, Adam Guettel, Marvin Hamlish, Joshua Henry, Jerry Herman, Whitney Houston, Elton John, Henry Krieger, Susan Lucci, Liza Minnelli, Regis Philbin, Stephen Sondheim, Barbra Streisand and Stevie Wonder, among others. He conducted the National Symphony for the 54th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. and has performed live on PBS, CNN, MSNBC, All My Children, The Today Show, Good Morning America, The View, Late Night with David Letterman, Live with Regis & Kelly, and the BBC and Channel 4 in London. He's conducted and arranged for Broadway on Broadway, Broadway in Bryant Park and conducted the National Anthem at the New Meadowlands Stadium at a sold-out Jets game.

We wanted to know how Shawn's musical interest began. "I grew up in a house where my mom, Audrey played piano and organ. At three years old, I was already climbing up on the piano bench and by five years old attempting to keep my new sister Jennifer away from my growing record collection that I was constantly listening to. Music has always been a part of my life and I started by participating in my church and school's musical groups." Shawn told us that by age fifteen he had his very first opportunity to be a musical director at a community playhouse in Charleston, Illinois conducting Mack & Mabel.

We are very impressed by Shawn's musical versatility and broad interests. He told us that he plays piano, clarinet, accordion, a little bit of drums, and studied the upright bass. We asked him what he would advise people interested in the music profession. "Observe as much as you can, get involved in the local level. Volunteer for gigs. It's all about doing it as much as you can. The more experience you gain, the better. My love of music has led me all over the world; it has taken me on its own journey.

Shawn's career has entailed a lot of travel. We learned it is a true pleasure for him. "If I could travel 365 days a year, I would do it. You really learn new aspects of music when you travel. You get lost in it. Music is universal."

Shawn is a man of many interests that include bicycling and swimming. He is an avid cook and enjoys taking road trips. He also has extremely varied musical tastes. "I love the full spectrum." Artists like Stevie Wonder, Chucho Valdez and Joni Mitchell, and genres like jazz, big band and classical.

We could have talked forever to Shawn about all of his interests and talents, but wanted to also chat about Holiday Inn and all the excitement that surrounds the upcoming show at Paper Mill Playhouse. Shawn told us about some of the challenges of the show. "There's a lot of music. It has a big selection of the composer's cannon. I discovered a lot of Irving Berlin songs I didn't know. The arrangements by Sam Davis and Larry Blank are first rate. There's favorites like "Blue Skies and "White Christmas" along with lesser known songs that includes the patriotic piece, "Song of Freedom, and the heartfelt "Nothing More to Say."

BWW Interview: Music Director Shawn Gough and HOLIDAY INN at Paper Mill Playhouse

He talked about the excitement that surrounds the production. "The show has given me so much energy, from the wonderfully talented ensemble cast to the stunning Papermill Playhouse refurbishment." He further stated, "This show is a love letter we need for this day and age. It's a holiday comedy, with a sweet love story, and absolutely charming."

When Holiday Inn comes to a close, Shawn has great projects to look forward to. "I am lucky enough to be conducting and musically directing Marie at 5th Avenue Theatre is Seattle directed by five time Tony winner Susan Stroman, written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty this spring. And he has just received word that he, with Tom Deering, will be launching and overseeing the new Jesus Christ Superstar North American tour that starts next fall.

To learn more about Shawn Gough, you will soon be able to visit SHAWNGOUGH.com where you can get updates and more information.

Tickets for Holiday Inn at Paper Mill Playhouse are now on sale. Patrons can purchase them by visiting the Playhouse box office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, online at https://papermill.org/or by calling 973.376.4343.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Paper Mill Playhouse

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From This Author Marina Kennedy

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