Bill Russell

Birth Place: South Dakota, USA

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Bill Russell BIO

Bill Russell was born in Deadwood and raised in Spearfish in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His paternal grandparents were Wyoming ranchers and his father was known as "Cowboy" to all. But somehow in that Wild West context, Bill was bitten by a theater bug at an early age.

He attended Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, for two years majoring in theater and spent the summers directing shows at a resort in northern New Jersey. There he met an Oberlin student, Janet Hood, and, inspired by Hair, asked if she'd like to write a rock musical together. They did — entirely by mail — and the result was presented at the University of Kansas where Bill transferred because Bill Becvar, a professor from Morningside, was doing graduate work there and said he'd like to direct an original. That show, a modern version of the Icarus myth titled Sun, Son, won the national BMI Inter-Varsity Show Competition for original musicals.

Continuing to write with Ms. Hood, Bill took a detour from musical theater into pop music. With Linda Langford, Janet formed a duo called Jade & Sarsaparilla and Bill managed them and wrote their lyrics. They toured successfully in New England for several years, released an album on Submaureen Records, and made television appearances both locally and nationally.

Bill was the impetus behind the formation of Monteith & Rand as a comedy team (they first performed as an opening act for Jade & Sarsaparilla). He directed and stage-managed their act for 14 years — on and off Broadway and at theaters around the nation.

In 1980, Bill made his off-Broadway writing debut, penning book and lyrics for Fourtune (music by Ronald Melrose). The show ran for 241 performances at the Actors Playhouse and was subsequently performed around the country and in Rio de Janeiro. In 1985, he teamed up with composer Albert Evans and co-author/co-lyricist, Frank Kelly, to create The Texas Chainsaw Musical off-Broadway — a revue of unlikely musicals.

In 1987, Family Style, with music by Janet Hood, was presented by the Minnesota Musical Theater Workshop and in 1989 their AIDS piece titled Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens premiered at the Ohio Theatre in Soho with Bill directing. Subsequently, he directed other productions around the country and three in London including the West End production at the Criterion. Elegies… has been produced all over the U.K. and in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Israel and Australia, among many other countries. An all-star benefit performance in New York in April, 2001 with a cast of 52 was recorded by Fynsworth Alley.

In 1991, Pageant, another collaboration with Evans and Kelly, opened off-Broadway at the Blue Angel where it ran for over a year. That project was conceived and directed by Robert Longbottom, subsequently toured Japan and continues to be produced around the country. In 2000, Bill directed a fringe production at the King's Head Theatre in London which transferred to the West End at the Vaudeville. That production received two Olivier Award nominations — for Gregg Barnes' costumes and "Best Supporting Performance in a Musical" which Miles Western won for his portrayal of Miss West Coast (competing against three real women). Bill has also directed productions in Chicago, Los Angeles and at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

Side Show, with music by Henry Krieger, marked Bill's Broadway debut as a writer (though he had contributed material to Monteith & Rand's show at the Booth in 1979). The musical, inspired by a true story, opened in October of 1997. Bill received a Tony nomination for Best Book and shared one for Best Score with Henry. The show also received a nomination for Best Musical and a rare joint nomination for Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner as Best Actress in a Musical for their portrayal of the conjoined Hilton Sisters. Side Show continues to be produced around the country and Bill directed a production at the Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota in January of 2002.

Bill and Henry's second collaboration — a wacky version of the ugly duckling idea (Hans Christian Andersen was not consulted) — has had five major productions under the title Everything's Ducky. Bill wrote the lyrics and co-authored the book with Jeffrey Hatcher. The musical comedy premiered with TheatreWorks of Palo Alto in January of 2000 and was subsequently performed at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the La Mirada Center for the Performing Arts in Southern California and Northlight Theatre in Chicago. The show received the Will Glickman Award for Best New Play (in the S.F. Bay Area) and Garland Awards (presented by Backstage West) for Best Score, Set and Costumes. A majorly revised version under the title Lucky Duck premiered at the Old Globe in San Diego in July, 2004, directed by John Rando, the Tony-winning director of Urinetown. Bill directed a production at the Boston Conservatory in the spring of 2007 and consulted on one at Black Hills State College in his hometown that fall.

Mr. Russell also collaborated with Henry Krieger on Kept — their version of Camille set in and around Studio 54. It premiered in April, 2002 with TheatreWorks of Palo Alto. Scott Schwartz (Bat Boy, tick ,tick… BOOM!, Golda's Balcony) directed and Stephen Chbosky (author of the novel The Perks of Being A Wallflower, executive producer of t.v.'s Jericho) collaborated with Bill on the book. The show was performed at the 2003 Edinburgh Festival by students from Oxford University.

Bill and Henry have been commissioned by the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. to adapt the story "Boonah — the Tree-Climbing Frog" as part of a Japan Festival in February, 2007. Working with director Amon Miyamoto (Pacific Overtures at Studio 54, Tea at the Sante Fe Opera), the musical is titled Up in the Air.

With Henry, Bill wrote "Santa's Gonna Rock and Roll," the opening number of the Radio City Musical Hall Christmas Spectacular which premiered in 1994 and remained for a dozen years. They were commissioned to write "Take the Flame" for the opening ceremonies of Gay Games IV. The song, performed by Lillias White, was repeated at the closing ceremony at Yankee Stadium and was subsequently selected as the official anthem of the Gay Games.

Other directing credits include: And Somewhere Men Are Laughing by Jeff Mandels at 2007's New York International Fringe Festival and John Augustine's Generation X. Bill also adapted the book of "Call Me Madam" for City Center Encores starring Tyne Daly.

Works-in-progress include The Last Smoker in America with composer Peter Melnick (readings at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, CA and the York Theatre, New York) and Unexpected Joy, music by Janet Hood.

Mr. Russell has received two Commendation Awards from the Gilman-Gonzalez/Falla Foundation and was given an honorary degree by Morningside College in May of 2003 and by the Boston Conservatory in May of 2007.

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[Off-Broadway, 2014]
Book and Lyrics
 
[Off-Broadway, 1995]
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[Broadway, 1979]
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Assistant Stage Manager

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London Theatre Week is the West End’s biggest promotion, giving you the chance to see over 50 amazing award-winning musicals and stunning plays with tickets from £15, £25 or £35

Len Cariou to Star in TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE at Sea Dog Theater

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The Manhattan Theatre Club production of Prayer for the French Republic has officially opened on Broadway! The play opened last night, January 9, at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. BroadwayWorld is taking you on the red carpet at the production's opening with Donna Murphy, Tyne Daly, LaChanze and more. Check out photos below!

Cast & Creative Team Set for DIAL M FOR MURDER at The Guthrie Theater

The Guthrie Theater has revealed the cast and creative team for Dial M for Murder, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from the original play by Frederick Knott.

Last Chance to Vote for the BWW Las Vegas Awards; Voting Ends 12/31

It's the final week left to vote for the 2023 BroadwayWorld Las Vegas Awards! Voting ends on 12/31 at midnight. Don't miss out on making sure that your favorite theatres, stars, and shows get the recognition they deserve!

2 Weeks to Vote for the BWW Las Vegas Awards; SCREAM’D, INHERIT THE WIND, Majestic Repertory Theatre & More Lead!

There's just two weeks left to vote and we have the latest standings as of Monday, December 18th for the 2023 BroadwayWorld Las Vegas Awards! Don't miss out on making sure that your favorite theatres, stars, and shows get the recognition they deserve!

Del Shores To Direct Off-Broadway Debut Of WOUNDED At SoHo Playhouse

Del Shores directs the Off-Broadway debut of the award-winning play WOUNDED, opening Jan. 24 at SoHo Playhouse, NYC. Inquire for interview opportunities with the creative team and cast.

BroadwayWorld Las Vegas Awards; SCREAM’D, INHERIT THE WIND, Majestic Repertory Theatre & More Lead!

It's the final 3 weeks and we have the latest standings as of Monday, December 11th for the 2023 BroadwayWorld Las Vegas Awards! Don't miss out on making sure that your favorite theatres, stars, and shows get the recognition they deserve!

BroadwayWorld Las Vegas Awards December 5th Standings; SCREAM’D Leads Best Musical!

It's December, and the first standings of the month have been announced as of Tuesday, December 5th for the 2023 BroadwayWorld Las Vegas Awards! Don't miss out on making sure that your favorite theatres, stars, and shows get the recognition they deserve!

Latest Standings Announced For The 2023 BroadwayWorld Las Vegas Awards; INHERIT THE WIND Leads Best Play!

Happy Holidays! The latest wave of standings have been announced as of Monday, November 27th for the 2023 BroadwayWorld Las Vegas Awards! Don't miss out on making sure that your favorite theatres, stars, and shows get the recognition they deserve!

Latest Standings Announced For The 2023 BroadwayWorld Las Vegas Awards; SCREAM'D Leads Best Musical!

The latest wave of standings have been announced as of Monday, November 20th for the 2023 BroadwayWorld Las Vegas Awards! Don't miss out on making sure that your favorite theatres, stars, and shows get the recognition they deserve!

Exclusive: SIDE SHOW: IN CONCERT Now Onsale!

Exclusive: Side Show: In Concert now onsale. Side Show comes to the London Palladium in a special, one-night-only concert spectacular on Sunday 3 March 2024.

Louise Dearman and Rachel Tucker Will Lead SIDE SHOW in Concert at the London Palladium

SIDE SHOW will come to the London Palladium in a special, one-night-only concert spectacular on Sunday 3 March 2024. Directed by Emma Butler with Adam Hoskins as Musical Director, the concert is presented by Lambert Jackson and Positive Sum.

Ben Vereen Joins Porchlight Music Theatre's Artistic Advisory Board

Renowned performer Ben Vereen joins the Artistic Advisory Board of Porchlight Music Theatre. Learn more about this exciting addition and Vereen's recent ICON Award recognition.

Telly Leung & More to Star in HAS ANYONE SEEN MY MIND? Industry Readings

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DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE to Play North Coast Repertory Theatre Beginning This Month

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Photos: JAJA's AFRICAN HAIR BRAIDING Cast Celebrates Opening Night

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All Star Cast Lead Celebration Of LGBTQ+ Representation In Musical Theatre at The Other Palace

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Maude Maggart to Present New Show HERE COME THE DREAMERS at Birdland

BIRDLAND JAZZ CLUB will present the singular cabaret artist Maude Maggart in the premiere of her new show “Here Come the Dreamers” on Monday, October 16 at 7:00 PM.

Bill Russell FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Bill Russell has written 9 shows including Almost Crazy (Composer), Fourtune (Bookwriter/Lyricist), Pageant (Bookwriter/Lyricist), Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens (Bookwriter/Lyricist), Side Show (Bookwriter), Lucky Duck (Bookwriter), Kept (Bookwriter), The Last Smoker in America (Bookwriter), Unexpected Joy (Bookwriter).

Bill Russell has been nominated for several awards in the Broadway industry. He received nominations for Best Book of a Musical at the Tony Awards for his work on Side Show. Additionally, he was also nominated for Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre at the Tony Awards for Side Show. These nominations recognize his contributions to the production and highlight his talent in both writing the book and creating the score for the musical.

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