Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Bill Russell

 
Date Of Birth:
July 15 (2022)
Birth Place:
South Dakota, USA
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 ... (read complete bio)
 
Date of Birth: July 15

Birth Place: South Dakota, USA

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 ... (read complete bio)

Photos

Stage Credits

Productions

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

Writing

Bookwriter
Lyricist
Bookwriter
Lyricist
Composer
Bookwriter/Lyricist
Bookwriter/Lyricist
Bookwriter
Lyricist
Bookwriter
Lyricist
Bookwriter/Lyricist
Bookwriter
Lyricist

Bill Russell Biography

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.

Bill Russell Awards and Nominations

 
Tony Awards - 1998 - Best Book of a Musical
Bill Russell, Side Show
 
Tony Awards - 1998 - Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Bill Russell, Side Show

Bill Russell News

VIDEO: Netflix Shares BILL RUSSELL: LEGEND Trailer Photo VIDEO: Netflix Shares BILL RUSSELL: LEGEND Trailer
by Michael Major - Jan 25, 2023

Narrated by actors Jeffrey Wright and Corey Stoll and featuring exclusive interviews with the icon’s family and friends as well as Steph Curry, Chris Paul, “Magic” Johnson, Larry Bird, Jim Brown and more, Bill Russell: Legend illuminates the ways in which Russell stood tall in every sense of the word. Watch the new video trailer now!

Sheryl Lee Ralph to be Honored at Amas Musical Theatre 54th Annual Gala Benefit Conce Photo Sheryl Lee Ralph to be Honored at Amas Musical Theatre 54th Annual Gala Benefit Concert
by Chloe Rabinowitz - Jan 19, 2023

Amas Musical Theatre will celebrate its 54th Anniversary at its annual Gala Benefit Concert, presenting the 2023 “Rosie” Award to Honoree Award-winning actress Sheryl Lee Ralph. See how to purchase tickets!

Netflix Greenlights New Docuseries with the World Cup and the Six Nations Rugby Tourn Photo Netflix Greenlights New Docuseries with the World Cup and the Six Nations Rugby Tournament
by Michael Major - Jan 12, 2023

Netflix has announced two new projects that further cement its status as a premier storyteller in sports, featuring exclusive, behind-the-scenes stories with the most popular athletes, teams, leagues and federations around the globe. Watch first look videos from three of the upcoming series now!

PHOTOS: Hugh Panaro's Solo Debut at 54 BELOW Photo PHOTOS: Hugh Panaro's Solo Debut at 54 BELOW
by Stephen Sorokoff - Oct 6, 2022

Prediction:  for the next few days, everyone will be talking about Hugh Panaro and his mesmerizing solo concert debut here in New York City, at 54 Below.  What took so long? Who Knows.  But that doesn’t matter anymore because his two-day run on October 5th and 6th is totally sold out, which means he’ll be back and, surely, be exporting this all over the country, to London, Canada, and Australia, where audiences love exactly what he is giving them- BROADWAY, and plenty of it, but through the singular lens of his career. 

PAGEANT, THE MUSICAL COMEDY BEAUTY CONTEST, Opens Island City Stage's 11th South Flor Photo PAGEANT, THE MUSICAL COMEDY BEAUTY CONTEST, Opens Island City Stage's 11th South Florida Season This Month
by Stephi Wild - Oct 5, 2022

It's Miss America meets RuPaul's Drag Race! Pageant, The Musical Comedy Beauty Contest, will open Island City Stage's 11th South Florida season in glamourous over-the-top style on October 20! The glittering, grandiose and glorious musical comedy runs through November 20.

Review: Phillip Officer is Back Where He Belongs in LET ME SING AND I'M HAPPY at Bird Photo Review: Phillip Officer is Back Where He Belongs in LET ME SING AND I'M HAPPY at Birdland
by Ricky Pope - Sep 27, 2022

Phillip Officer was a prevalent name in NYC cabarets in the 1990s and early 2000s. He made a name for himself on Broadway in the cast of the original SIDE SHOW. And his cabaret evenings were always highly regarded by critics and audiences alike. But as he explained this evening, in 2008 he packed everything he owned into several large bags and not quite knowing why boarded a plane to Las Vegas, a place he had never been, with the intent of starting a new life. His baggage was lost along the way. How’s that for a metaphor?

Birdland Theater to Present Stacy Sullivan & Todd Murray in I'M GLAD THERE IS YOU Cel Photo Birdland Theater to Present Stacy Sullivan & Todd Murray in I'M GLAD THERE IS YOU Celebrating Frank Sinatra & Peggy Lee
by Chloe Rabinowitz - Sep 22, 2022

BIRDLAND THEATER will present singers Stacy Sullivan and Todd Murray in the new show “I’m Glad There Is You – The Musical Romance of Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee” on Monday, October 31 at 8:30 PM.

Steve Ross to Present AUTUMN SERENADES at Birdland in October Photo Steve Ross to Present AUTUMN SERENADES at Birdland in October
by Chloe Rabinowitz - Sep 16, 2022

BIRDLAND JAZZ CLUB will present vocalist and pianist Steve Ross in a special new show “Autumn Serenades” on Monday, October 24 at 7:00 PM. Ross will sing a few mellow seasonal ballads, including “September in the Rain,” “Autumn Leaves,” “September Song,” and “When October Goes.”

Island City Stage to Present PAGEANT and More in 11th Season Photo Island City Stage to Present PAGEANT and More in 11th Season
by Blair Ingenthron - Sep 11, 2022

Island City Stage, creating quality professional theatrical experiences focused on the LGBT+ community for a universal audience, has announced its 11th South Florida Season. Coming off a successful 10th anniversary run, the theater company will open its 11th year in October with the glittering, grandiose and glorious musical comedy Pageant.

Victoria Shaw, Jim Brickman & Peter Cincotti to Present THREE FRIENDS, ONE PIANO at B Photo Victoria Shaw, Jim Brickman & Peter Cincotti to Present THREE FRIENDS, ONE PIANO at Birdland in October
by Chloe Rabinowitz - Sep 8, 2022

BIRDLAND JAZZ CLUB will present a special musical evening with three great musical talents Victoria Shaw, Jim Brickman, and Peter Cincotti, in “Three Friends, One Piano” on Monday, October 10 at 7:00 PM.

Bill Russell Videos

VIDEO: Watch Lena Hall Sing from ELEGIES FOR ANGELS, PUNKS AND RAGING QUEENS Videoplay
VIDEO: Watch Lena Hall Sing from ELEGIES FOR ANGELS, PUNKS AND RAGING QUEENS

by Stage Tube - Nov 30, 2020

Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens is set to stream on World AIDS Day -Tuesday, December 1 (5pm), featuring 51 performers and benefitting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens honors the lives lost to AIDS through free-verse monologues with a blues, jazz and rock score.

Broadway Rewind: SIDE SHOW Returns to Broadway! Videoplay
Broadway Rewind: SIDE SHOW Returns to Broadway!

by BroadwayWorld TV - Nov 29, 2020

Today we rewind to 2014, when Side Show was getting ready to return to Broadway at the St. James Theatre, where it played for 56 performances.

BWW TV: Get A Sneak Peek At New Musical UNEXPECTED JOY Videoplay
BWW TV: Get A Sneak Peek At New Musical UNEXPECTED JOY

by BroadwayWorld TV - Aug 31, 2018

The European premiere of Bill Russell and Janet Hood's new musical Unexpected Joy transfers from its Off-Broadway run, at the York Theatre Company, to London's Southwark Playhouse from 5 September 2018. Watch a video from rehearsals below!

BWW TV:  Meet The Creatives Behind New Musical UNEXPECTED JOY Videoplay
BWW TV: Meet The Creatives Behind New Musical UNEXPECTED JOY

by BroadwayWorld TV - Aug 30, 2018

The European premiere of Bill Russell and Janet Hood's new musical Unexpected Joy transfers from its Off-Broadway run, at the York Theatre Company, to London's Southwark Playhouse from 5 September 2018. Watch a video interview below!

BWW TV: Meet the Cast of New Musical UNEXPECTED JOY Videoplay
BWW TV: Meet the Cast of New Musical UNEXPECTED JOY

by BroadwayWorld TV - Aug 29, 2018

The European premiere of Bill Russell and Janet Hood's new musical Unexpected Joy transfers from its Off-Broadway run, at the York Theatre Company, to London's Southwark Playhouse from 5 September 2018.

VIDEO: A First Look At A Sensible Theatre Co Presents PAGEANT, The Musical Videoplay
VIDEO: A First Look At A Sensible Theatre Co Presents PAGEANT, The Musical

by Alan Henry - Jul 3, 2018

The cast is set for A Sensible Theatre Co.'s production of Pageant: The Musical, co-presented with ACTLab June 15 - July 8, 2018. This fabulous production will coincide with Seattle PRIDE 2018. The announcement took place during A Sensible Debutante Ball last week at FRED Wildlife Refuge on Capitol Hill, Seattle.

BWW TV: Emily Skeggs, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Kate Shindle & More Perform at SING AND TELL
by BroadwayWorld TV - Oct 2, 2015

Last night, Thursday October 1, Samuel French, the world's largest publisher and licensor of stage plays and musicals, in collaboration with HowlRound, presented Sing and Tell: A Benefit Concert for the Dramatists Guild Fund at Feinstein's/54 Below.

World Premiere Exclusive: Listen to 'I Will Never Leave You' from the New SIDE SHOW Cast Recording!
by BroadwayWorld TV - Feb 3, 2015

The all-new Broadway cast recording of Side Show is on its way! The album will be released by Broadway Records on February 17, and will be available from Amazon and iTunes on February 24. Boasting Side Show's legendary and beloved score, which now includes new music, and featuring the acclaimed vocal performances of the Broadway cast, the new original Broadway cast recording of Side Show is produced by six-time Grammy Award winning producer Frank Filipetti. Below, BroadwayWorld is excited you an exclusive first listen of the show's anthem- 'I Will Never Leave You.' Check it out below!

STAGE TUBE: SIDE SHOW Bids Broadway Farewell with Closing Curtain Encore
by Stage Tube - Jan 5, 2015

At the final closing curtain, the cast gave a touching encore performance of 'Say Goodbye to the Side Show' - check it out below!

VIDEO: SIDE SHOW's Erin Davie and Emily Padgett Perform on THE VIEW
by TV News Desk - Dec 17, 2014

Broadway's Side Show will end its run at the St. James Theatre on Sunday, January 4, 2015. Discussions are currently underway for Side Show to make its London debut. The completely reimagined revival began previews on October 28 and officially opened on November 17, 2014. Below, watch SIDE SHOW leading ladies Erin Davie and Emily Padgett perform on THE VIEW!


Bill Russell Frequently Asked Questions

How many shows has Bill Russell written?
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).

What awards has Bill Russell been nominated for?
Best Book of a Musical (Tony Awards) for Side Show and Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre (Tony Awards) for Side Show .