An Exclusive Look at For Tonight: A New Musical
As you know, Breaking the Curtain loves new musicals! Join Cris and Joce as they sit down with Spencer Williams and Shenelle Salcido, co-writers of the new musical, For Tonight! The group is also joined by Joseph Perdue, the orchestrator working with the team on the U.K concept album being released this summer!
For Tonight is a new, original, musical inspired by the writer's third great grandfather's handwritten journal. Through a riveting score, the atmospheric soundscape blends traditional Welsh choral, indie-pop, folk, and Romani inspired melodies and rhythms. At its core, For Tonight is an exploration of the power and meaning of home.
Enjoy this exclusive listen and look into For Tonight!
This post is a transcription from an episode of our Breaking The Curtain podcast, available on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify.
C - CRISSY
J - JOCELYN
SW - SPENCER WILLIAMS
SS - SHENELLE SALCIDO
JP - JOSEPH PERDUE
C: Hi stagey friends! Hi Joce!
J: Hi Cris, hi everybody! This episode has been a long time in the making, and we are so excited to finally share it with you.
J: Joining us today, we have Shenelle Salcido and Spencer Williams, the co-writers of brand new musical: For Tonight, as well as orchestrator Joseph Perdue, to talk about the creative process behind their show as well as preparing for the release of their U.K concept album, which is coming out to you guys this summer.
C: This is honestly so exciting, we are so thrilled to have them in our studio today! Virtually, of course. Welcome friends!
J: It’s so good to finally see you guys on screen! We would love to start off if you guys would like to go around and tell us who you are, what you do on the show, and where in the world you are right now so our listeners can get used to your voices!
SW: Hi, I’m Spencer, I’m one of the co-writers on the show, For Tonight, and I am coming from Utah, though tomorrow I’ll be in California, so it kind of depends, I go back and forth.
SS: I’m Shenelle Salcido, and I am also co-writer, co-composer, co-lyricist, as Spencer is, on the show. I am also coming from Utah at the moment.
JP: And I’m Joseph Perdue, I’m coming to you from England, about 40 minutes from London. I’m the co-orchestrator and producing the album; the audio and mixing and stuff like that.
J: I think right off the bat, we have to ask: what’s it like collaborating, not just during this time when we all have to be distanced, but especially at such a great distance for all of you?
SW: We started this show six, seven years ago, and we started doing it at a distance, we’ve always done that. We’ve always been in Google Docs working on the show, and we’ve been in lots of different places over the last few years. And so, bringing Joseph on board for the album has been really exciting because we’re collaborating with someone new, but also Joseph being in London, like… I think the biggest thing, it’s not really a huge, huge thing for us, but I think the biggest thing is just the time difference. I’m always working in his middle of the night, and going back and forth.
JP: Then again, I stay up all night anyways, so we’re actually kind of on the same schedule! Yeah, no, I really like it. I’m so used to working online, I rarely have a collaborator actually in the room. For my other project, he lives in Belgium, and I’ve written orchestrations for people that live in America, so I do a lot of work with people that live in different countries. Yeah, I really like it! I think every location kind of has its own different musical influence, so it’s kind of nice hearing writers from other parts of the world because they have different influences, and you’re working with new material, so I love that.
SS: It’s been a huge benefit to the project, I think, having Joseph on board. And you know, as he was talking about having regional influences with music, he’s been able to really bring to the show, and craft the sound through his orchestrations that we’ve been looking for for a very long time. We had to go halfway around the world to find exactly what we were looking for, but thanks to the digital age it’s really brought what we think the show needed at this time. So, Joseph, it’s been awesome having you on board.
JP: Thank you! I’m lucky to be a part of it, because I think you guys set up your ideas for the soundscape really well, and even when you just send a piano recording, sometimes even that is enough to get a feel of what you’re going for. One of the new songs I was working on that you just sent the piano, you could already hear what type of song you were going for, I think you achieved that really well through the writing. It’s also nice to get the references, like when we were doing the second song, with all the males… I always forget the name of this one. You know the one… You just sent me a YouTube clip of Mumford and Sons and as soon as I heard it I was like, “Oh, yeah I see what they’re going for.” They have a very clear idea in their head of what they’re trying to achieve, and I just try to put it into practice.
J: We’re definitely going to ask about the musical influences in a hot second, but we would love if you could tell our listeners about the show itself. What’s the story?
SW: Sure. The story came out of my great-great-great grandfather’s journals. It’s a tiny, like, maybe five paragraphs of a really thick handwritten journal, but it’s all about his life from basically when he was a child, up until he left for America. The bulk of his journals is after coming to America, immigrating, walking across the plains to Utah, and his experience with basically coming to a new country, new place. But we just thought that the beginning part of his life in Northern Wales was so interesting, and we wanted to kind of explore: how does one decide to leave and move across the world, sight unseen? Like, how do you get to that point? And what are the things that make you have that courage, because like, I can’t fathom it in my mind. I thought that was more interesting, so Shenelle and I, when we started to kind of craft this whole thing in our heads, that just seemed really interesting to us. I don’t know if, Shenelle, you wanted to speak to some of the other parts of the show?
SS: Yeah, so in addition to following the character, Haydon’s story, we’ve given some different names to these characters. There’s really a dynamic we wanted to explore in tragedy and loss, and how families cope with changing circumstances. This was at a time, the setting starts in 1832 in Northern Wales, and this is a time when the entire U.K is really dealing with a huge wave of cholera. On top of that, the character falls in love with a Romani woman, which is definitely a taboo thing at that time. There’s a clash of cultures going on with that, you’ve got the family dynamics happening of this family who loses their parents, they’re siblings and how they cope with that afterwards, and the Welsh culture as well as the Romani culture are characters as well within the show too. It’s not just a traditional love story and moving to America story, but it’s all of the cultural background that sets up that unique love story.
C: That’s very nice.
SW: Shenelle has six siblings and I have four siblings, so…
SW: Yeah! So one of the things we wanted to explore was the sibling relationship, which is something obviously we’ve dealt with growing up , and I have four brothers so it’s… That part, there’s a couple of musical theatre shows that have that sibling, but not in a way that we wanted to tell, and that’s such a big part of our lives that it just kind of came together… I don’t know if it was like an intentional choice but it just ended up being this story about siblings, family, and how they navigate loss and grief and finding their own way, finding their own home.
JP: I was just going to add, that’s one of the things I loved about the show when I read through the script for the first time. I love the fact it was like a sibling story, because they are quite rare. Especially when you have a lot of brothers and sisters like we all do, it’s really emotional, you get really attached to it. It’s interesting, what you said about how the theme presented itself as like, the key theme of the show when, sometimes you’re working on a show, and it’s about multiple things and you don’t really know what the main story is, or the heart of the story, but as I was going through it, I definitely picked up on that relationship between the three of them. It’s just really emotional. Towards the end, there’s so much emotion and stuff that I can’t imagine anyone not being able to relate to it, or enjoy it. It’s really nice.
J: I’m excited just listening to this!
C: I’m like, absorbing it all right now and I’m like, “Wow, yes!”
J: And isn’t that like, so wonderful? I know that what Crissy and I talk about when we talk about theatre, is that there are those themes, they seem like really big themes, and they are, but they’re so personal, and they touch each and every person who goes and sees the show. You know, grief and loss within a family, a relationship with a sibling, family members who have immigrated from somewhere and came to totally start over and have a new life, that’s something that’s so personal to so many people, myself included. I’m just so thrilled that we’re here to talk about this, I think it's got so much heart. What’s it like sharing those things that are so close to yourselves , sibling relationships and your personal family history as well, what’s it like putting that on paper to share?
SS: In some way, I think some of these themes have come out inadvertently. Spencer and I originally sat down reading the journals of his third great-grandfather. We were stuck in a random hotel, what town was it in Germany, Spencer?
SS: We were there, it rained for like three days, and so it just started out of this boredom project thinking “Yeah, let’s write a musical, that sounds fun!” And then we saw two paragraphs from his grandfather’s journal that we thought were interesting, there was a forbidden love, and we thought, “Oh, that’s fun, everyone loves a good forbidden love story.” It started there but inadvertently, just moments from our lives started to creep into the script. We started exploring, and as we matured, we grappled with this idea of what it means to leave home, and to find your own path in life but still retain these ties and to make new ties with siblings. The themes just started to find their way into the show and so, the show really matured with us, I think. We were quite naive at the time we first started this, and fortunately we’ve had the time to develop it and to change the themes about things we really felt have pulled strongly in our lives.
SW: Yeah, we were texting last night and it was interesting because I think the show has morphed as we have morphed. We’ve had, not to get too personal, a good couple years where we’ve had to navigate some real stuff, and I think it’s been, we can start to see some of that in the show collectively… Different familial relationships, personal relationships in these different ways, and so… The show is so about these two worlds and everything but then we see ourselves in this. I think what we hope is that people see themselves. One of the things after our first production of it was, you know each person would come to us and be like, “Oh, I really connected with Nettie”, or “I connected with Haydon”. Each one of them has a very specific journey, so it’s kind of fun to see how people react to it.
JP: You’re saying this sparked from a little holiday trip in Germany or something? So you carry around your grandfather’s notebooks everywhere you go? How did that happen?
SS: I think we had scanned it in. We had been doing a lot of songwriting, we thought “You know, we should see if any of these new songs can be put together for a show.” And a lot of those songs have now been scrapped, just because they don’t work anymore. But yeah, I think he had digitally scanned in that journal, and then we were like, “What’s a good story? Let’s look for some stories, something copyright free and personal, something that’s not just trying to take a movie and turn it into a musical.” And we just happened to have that I think on his iPad or something...
SW: We also had been travelling together for three weeks, so we had nothing else to talk about. We were like, together for a good three weeks…
SS: At that point there’s nothing else to talk about.
SW: Yeah, so we ended up going, “Okay, we’ll try this.” We literally got like a… I don’t know what they’re called, some kind of board.
SS: We had an app that had like, sticky notes, and we kind of just put it together like we had a big whiteboard of sticky notes and drafting out the plot. The plot has largely stayed the same, but the character’s journeys within the plot have changed dramatically.
SW: And since then, we’ve done a lot. Like, lots of research, it’s… I also was joking with Shenelle that it’s kind of like a dissertation on Welsh-Romani, because there’s just not that much information out there.
SS: Especially with the Romani culture, very little has been written down.
SW: Yeah, that’s a very oral-based culture, it’s not written, it’s not recorded. And so the research on it was pretty hard, just to get information. But in this last year, there’s actually quite a bit more, there’s a website that teaches Welsh-Romani language just came out this January. I had an opportunity to sit down with the person who founded that to do more research. So I feel like in the last four to five months we’ve really been able to find some specificity inside of the culture of the Romani world and the Welsh world. Doing this album, that we’re excited about, has really kind of propelled that research and the people that we’re working with now, so it’s really exciting that way.
SS: Joseph’s musical vocabulary is really extensive as well, too. So he’s really helped to help craft the characters in instrumentation, he’s added a very unique sound to the show for that.
J: Yeah, that’s actually a question we had for you, Joseph. We know that obviously, Spencer and Shenelle, you have done a lot of research to make the book happen and balancing the creative process and the academic side of it, but Joseph, how have you brought this sort of research and stuff and put it into something as artsy as creating orchestrations? How do you find that balance, and what sort of research did you have to do?
JP: Well, I’m massively influenced by film scores. Since I was about eighteen, I’ve wanted to be a film composer, so that’s kind of where I want to eventually end up. So, I’m always very observant when I’m watching any film, if it’s set in a certain location, I’m always just paying attention to the musical culture, and listening to the different types of instruments. I like it when I hear something and I don’t know what the instrument is, I’m like “I’ve got to go and do some research” and figure out what it was. So for this show, I didn’t know too much about the kind of Romani soundscape, I had a general kind of gypsy soundscape in my head, which is what I kind of worked with and then added different kinds of ethnic instruments, like a duduk instead of a clarinet. It just gives us that kind of feeling that you’re somewhere else. Where these people have come from is somewhere far away, and that’s kind of what I was going for. I’ve also got a musical library called Gypsy , but it’s got loads of instruments in it which I thought were good and really appropriate. But I think a lot of it was in the DNA of the music, like I said before. I think both of them are brilliant with rhythms, and that was something that was very important because it’s very percussive, especially that sort of soundscape, there’s loads of different kinds of castanets, tambourines and djembe and all kinds of weird drums I can find. It’s kind of street music that you’re writing, isn’t it, so it has to be instruments that people can kind of hold. That’s why on the songs like Come Along and stuff, I just cut out the piano completely because you’re not going to see someone getting pushed around on the streets with a piano. So that’s kind of what I was thinking with accordions and things like that. I’ve had a lot of fun with it actually, it’s been fun to experiment with a soundscape which I hadn’t really heard in musical theatre before. I still think that’s one of the best selling points of the show, especially with the opening track Away. When you’re waiting for a show to begin and that music starts, and you’re like “Oh, this is something I haven’t heard before” and that’s a real strength to the show.
J: When it comes to the research aspect of this journey, do any of you have any fun facts that you learned that have stuck with you?
SW: Yes. You know, it’s been really amazing because it’s both research about my family heritage and genealogy, but then about two different, really powerful cultures that really don’t get that much limelight.
SS: Both have a huge talent base as far as music goes as well, too. It’s just so easy to pull stylistically from their different soundscapes, both Welsh and Romani culture have a history of excellent musicianship.
SW: Yeah, and it’s been so exciting to get the Welsh performers and hearing the Welsh accent. One of them mentioned to me, they’re like “I’ve been in musical theatre my whole life and I’ve never been able to sing in a Welsh accent before, I’ve never been able to sing in my own accent.” And while I think sometimes people think, “Oh, well, whatever”, but that’s a massive thing. This is some representation that hasn’t been heard in the musical theatre canon before. And with Romani, we think the one gypsy Esmerelda in Hunchback, but that could be like -
JP: My favourite score in the world!
C: It’s so good!
SW: It is a beautiful score. But it’s not very well represented in regards to the Romani experience by any means. And she’s not a very well fleshed out character, and so I think it’s just… It’s really important as we’ve done this journey and this research and we’ve really kind of done the hard work on this, that we want to give them a representation that is real and is authentic. That’s part of the reason why we’ve reached out to a Romani poet and writer. We have Raine on our team now and she basically comes through and kind of authenticates the voice of the Romani, just so that it feels and lives in the real world as opposed to some sort of…
SS: I think sometimes it’s over romanticized. This idea, the mysticism of… In the U.S we don’t even know the term Romani, when we tell someone we’re doing a show about Romani culture, they’re like “What?” and then you say “Gypsies” and they’re like “Oh, okay, got it.” And there are just certain thoughts that just seem to come into people’s minds when they say “Oh, you’re writing a gypsy show, it’ll be so colourful and mystical”. And yes, there are reasons why stereotypes exist, they are usually grounded in something, somewhere, but we want to bring a more authentic voice, recognizing that neither of us have that background, that we don’t want to add to those stereotypes.
SW: One of the main things we’ve learned is actually the Welsh-Romani sound is very harp driven and fiddle driven, to which I think most people think is very Welsh, but they’re the ones that kind of created that sound in Wales and now the triple harp and fiddle is now very ingrained into the Welsh country sound. It’s very a part of their world, and yet that came from the Romani. One of our characters is based off of one of the triple harpists, one of the famous Romani triple harpists who played for Queen Victoria. It’s kind of amazing that people have an idea of what Romani music is, and yet because it wasn’t recorded or wasn’t written down, we actually don’t know a lot. Shenelle and I were able to reach out to the seventh great-granddaughter of Abraham Wood who was the “King of the Gypsies”. And she gave us a melody and a poem from the 1800s that we were able to adapt and kind of create our own little version of it, but that was an exciting moment to kind of bring to life. Some real Romani poems and music, and we literally just sent that to Joseph two nights ago.
JP: And I’ve already almost finished it!
SS: And this is why Joseph is on board. Because we can hand him something, and then a couple days later he comes back with this film score sounding track and it’s amazing.
JP: But you know, it’s a lot easier to orchestrate when you really get the vision. Spencer’s started sending me emails with loads details of the settings like “Okay, yeah, imagine they’re all around this campfire and stuff and there’s someone playing the harp and it’s kind of mystical”, and just from that, there’s so many instruments you can just pour into that soundscape and make it work. It’s lots of fun.
SW: And I think this might be the third or fourth time where Joseph and I, and we’re all on camera together. Mostly I write really long emails at around 10pm at night, and he has to decipher them and he does, and it’s great!
C: I love it!
J: That’s amazing! And so, we are going to jump in… You have a concept album coming out for the show, can you tell us about it? What’s it like? Who’s involved? What can people expect when they listen?
SW: It’s so exciting. We’ve been waiting eight years to make this happen, and I’m actually really happy that we waited the eight years and that we did the work. I think if we had done this before, it just wouldn’t be exactly what we wanted, but we are really proud of what’s coming out. We have twenty-two people on this concept album all over the U.K, everyone is doing this distanced. I think what’s most exciting is that we have, I think, ten to twelve Welsh speaking singers. I mean, the Welsh people, they are such amazing musicians. I don’t know how we pulled it off honestly, like the last four months are a little bit of a blur. We have people from the West End joining us, like I just spoke with Jade Davies on Instagram this week, and she is brilliant and she is from North Wales. She did her prom at Raglan Castle, which is one of the places which is in the show. She is singing, we did an adaptation or an arrangement of a very famous Welsh lullaby called Suo Gân, she’s singing on that, and it’s the first time we’ve heard Welsh people sing it and it’s unreal. I’m so excited.
SS: And how many tracks, twenty-five tracks?
SW: That’s correct, yes.
SS: So, you’ll be able to listen to the show, start to finish. There will be, you know, scenes that won’t be included, of course, but you should be able to follow the gist of the show from start to finish. One thing in our journey, we’ve done various productions and readings, and we have never been able to let someone walk away with the music at these events. For us, that’s been really important, we feel like that’s the next step for the show, that if people can listen to it, that is what’s gonna grab people’s attention. You know, when you’re submitting to theatres and trying to get people interested, there’s only so much you can gain from reading the script, right? But when you can live in the world of the show through the music, then that’s what we really hope propels things forward for the show, but also, production or no production this album is something… I think it’s a work of art and something we’ve worked very hard on and we really want people to just have something they can take away and kind of live through this very, it will be a very long show, you know, twenty-five tracks. But we think that there’s a lot of earworms in there and we’re hoping people like it.
JP: And I think, with an original show it’s so hard to pitch the concept to someone, I’ve been there with my own shows, and unless you can actually present them something that sounds ninety percent or one hundred percent what it’s meant to sound like, they just won’t get it. They’ll say they do, like “Oh yeah, I can envision it from your piano sketch” but really, they can’t until they’ve heard it all. And also, I mean, it encapsulates eight years of work, I mean it’s such a great thing to have, you know? I think that was one of the best decisions that I made a few years ago when I was writing musicals and I wanted to get it out there, all of it to get my shows produced and everything. I just had to record it, I had to learn how to produce music. I spent thousands of pounds, like, all of the money I was earning was going straight into music libraries, mixing courses, all the equipment I need, which is quite a lot. But it’s totally paid off, and now I’m able to help people, like me, who have written a show, and have such a great vision, but haven’t been able to actually present it to someone unless it’s performed onstage. But with a recording it’s great. If someone can’t make your production, you can just send them the album and they can listen to it that way, and there’s another way to kind of access your show rather than… Before you put up a production, you send out like a hundred emails like, “Please come to my show, we’d love for you to be there”, but most people are busy mostly around the West End and you’re lucky if five percent of them actually show up. Having a concept album is a massive step forward, I think, for anyone creating a musical.
SW: We wanted to create a concept album that wasn’t just, you know, the usual four or five piece band arrangement that I think is mostly what you hear, because it’s so expensive to get this going. Even when we’ve done a full production of it, we loved it but it was a five piece band, and it's not like you can hire a harpist. Like, when you tell the theatre company and you’re like, “We really need a harp”, and they’re like, “No you don’t.” And it's integral to this sound, and it’s so important. And you know, the other thing we thought about was like, getting different types of people to sing the one off song or different things like that, and we just wanted to tell the story from top to end with the same cast and with like this world of the orchestra that we haven’t been able to hear before. We didn’t want to do highlights, you know, if we’re gonna do it, let’s just do it! So, twenty-five songs later…
JP: And I haven’t slept in four months… No, I’m joking, I have! Actually Spencer, I was going to say, one of the greatest things to hear in our first conversation, I think it was, or it might have been our conversation with Blair… But basically, I had done the trial song, and I realized I was going to do the whole project, and I was talking to them with experience from previous shows of orchestrating where the producer or someone has always been like “Yeah, whatever we record is going to have to be playable onstage, got to keep it down to a certain amount of instruments” maybe you only use bass guitar and drum kits for a foundation sound. And then Spencer was like “No, just throw everything at it, give it all you’ve got”, and because I’m obsessed with film scores and I love big, dramatic soundscapes, I was like “Oh, yes, this is going to be something I can really pour all of my skills into” and I don’t get a chance to as often, so it’s been great fun.
SS: As we’ve been writing, the way that Joseph orchestrates is how I’ve always heard it in my head. So for me, with every production, having the limitations of, you know, not enough time for the musicians to rehearse because you’re paying them, and so you know, as a composer, you know every note. You know when one note is sung wrong, you know that one rhythm was a sixteenth note off, you know that you really wanted to hear the violin to do a slide that way in that one phrase, and… I feel like it’s been stuck inside my head for so long, the way that I want to hear this show. And I’m finally, I can’t even tell you how often Joseph sends things back, and I’ll be in the middle of something else, some other project, the middle of a workday, and I’ll like sneak off, I’ll go and find that five minutes to listen, and I’m just throwing my hands in the air, I’m like “Finally! Finally! That’s how I’ve heard it in my head for the last five years! And I’ve never heard it out loud!” So, it’s really an incredible experience that he has such a vast library that he’s pulling from, as far as his instruments go. It’s really incredible to hear, and you know, I think this creates opportunities for the show, to hear it with a large soundscape. It could be performed in so many different ways. It could be performed outdoors now that we have the tracks and have the instrumental side of it, if we wanted to just put it through speakers because of other limitations, we could. Or you know, I see cinematic opportunities because it has that sound to it, but of course you know it still works for stage, assuming we can get a thirty piece orchestra that I want someday, but… But we have also done it with just piano before, and you know, Spencer and I composed everything from the piano as a starting point so…
JP: Yeah, so do I. I think that’s a massive strength of the show. I mean, they’re not songs that require everything I’m throwing at it, they work really well just on piano or guitar, and you can always do it like that, and that’s great. And that can’t be said with all kinds of pop musicals, but when you break down these songs, the writing is very sophisticated, and that’s always the most important thing. You can arrange it in a thousand different ways, but the core, the melody and the lyrics have to be good, and they are in every song. That’s what I think is the most impressive, the consistency of this show is amazing, it’s not like there’s five good songs and the rest are okay. They’re all amazing and they’re all so different, you know? There’s one, I liked working on a song like Oh Love Of Mine because it’s kind of like the church sound, so that’s a different musical palette I can use: nice deep, warm bass singers, organs and bells. And then there’s the gyspy stuff, and then there’s the kind of folk-rock sound, there’s so many different elements that make up it all.
J: I am so excited to hear this! When’s the album coming out? Where can we get it?
SS: It’s a lot of talk and no sound yet…
SW: I know, I’m hoping everyone will love it. It’s coming out on July 30th! And you guys are the first to know this, we just decided!
SW: I don’t even know if Joseph fully knew this, but July 30th.
SS: We’re springing it on him… This is when we send Joseph apology flowers after this.
SW: We are really excited to put it out there, you know so that people can hear it. But I think, you know, one of the things this whole process has given us is the opportunity to finally showcase the show in a way they we’re really, really proud of. It is so hard to get an original musical that is an unknown title, unknown writers, and we’ve had such an amazing ride on the development side, we’ve gone to some wonderful places like the New York Musical Theatre Festival, Goodspeed Opera House, Michigan State, Isle of Man… We have had so much support along the way, but this next step for us, I think finally I’m really excited to share what the show sounds like. So, July 30th, there’s a lot of work to be done before that but I just can’t wait. I’ve always been nervous before, when we do our show I’m like a nervous wreck before opening night or whatnot, almost in a bad way. I am just so proud of what we’ve accomplished and of the people we have on the project. I want to make sure that we mention we have Iestyn Griffiths, he is working with the ensemble, and he is from Wales, I got him on board on the project. He runs the West End of Wales and does all this really cool stuff , and I’m just so excited to have him on the project. These last four months, I feel like I’ve really been able to really get going on something we’ve been working on for a long time.
JP: I can’t wait to hear the response as well, I figure it’s going to go down really well with people all over, but it is nice that it highlights the Welsh people as well. Like you say, it’s not… It’s hard for actors when they’re not allowed to use their accent, that it’s gotta be trained out of them if you come to the U.K and want to be part of a U.K production. That’s not such a great thing. And also, sometimes when you work on something for so long, in your mind, you know it’s good. But I mean, the opening for example is eight and a half minutes. It must have been day after day for a week, maybe even a bit more, and after a while I just go brain dead. Like, “I think this sounds good”, because when I first started working on it, I was like “Oh yes, this is great” but then you kind of lose sight of if it works or not. So it’s nice to hear that Shenelle has her own little parties when she gets a recording sent through. I think hearing feedback from the general public will be amazing.
C: Very exciting! Now, where can everyone find you on social media, how can people support For Tonight?
SW: So, the first thing is this I think, join the journey. This is a different experience because most Broadway musicals get their big announcement and then that starts. But we want people to come on the journey with us, and people have been on that journey for several years, and it’s been really fun. But you know, what does it take to get a new musical in London, how do you get new voices, new stories, new representation? That’s what we want people to discover and to learn that instead of just being given musicals, that they can be a part of the journey and a part of getting it to a space. Especially on new work and new original work. I love a good movie musical like The Addams Family or whatnot, but I just need something real and something original and a different sound, and I think that’s part of the reason Shenelle and I started out on this journey, to begin with. We wanted to hear something different in the theatre. You can join us on Instagram, or Facebook, those are our two… Instagram is usually where we’re at, and joining that conversation, and lifting up new writers and new stories is kind of what we would love to do. Who knows what happens in the future? We have a wonderful producer, Blair Russell, on the team, he’s amazing, and just worked on Slave Play on Broadway, and is this up and coming new producer. We just all want to do cool work!
SS: He’s very creative, and he’s the first producer that we have really worked with. We’ve been hesitant, in the past with some other circumstances but with Blair, Blair’s not so tied to any one model of producing theatre. I love his creativity, and he looks to a lot of different sources other than just traditional, straight theatre and that’s one thing that you know… Spencer has a long standing love of musical theatre, I on the other hand, have been newer to the genre. And I think that’s been good because Spencer pulls me into the traditional world where necessary and then I think I push him out of that where necessary. But for me, I’ve had some of the worst and the best experiences of my life being in theatres, and when theatre is rough, it can be really, really rough. It’s hard to sit through. So, as a personal project, I thought, “Okay, I’ve seen some musicals that have really inspired me, and I’ve seen some musicals that have been very painful before, and I really want to push myself to try and work in a genre that I know has that capacity for both extremes, right?” In crafting our album, I’ve always thought “Is this something that I would actually want to listen to after seeing the show? Or would just sit down and listen to on it’s own?” It’s been really important to us to think we want to hear music that out of context, works for us, not just while you’re sitting in a theatre. That’s why this album has been really important to the project.
SW: We definitely like, live in the melody of a song, and there’s a lot of musical theatre composers recently that don’t, I guess that’s all I’ll say.
SS: Oh, we’re getting controversial here…
SW: I know! But I want to walk out of the theatre singing something. You know, you think about Les Mis and you can instantly sing all these different melodies, and I think it’s the reason why it’s such a, I mean obviously it’s such a great story, but there’s a reason why that show has lasted. Even forty years later, almost forty years later, it’s still lovely to hear and so we wanted to write something where you walk out of the theatre, and you can still hum it, and you can still hear it, and not just kind of sing on a pitter-patter.
JP: I know what you mean, I’m the same because when I write a piece of music, again because I was influenced by film scores, I’m always thinking melody first because that has to be the thing that initially grabs the emotion, not the lyrics. I mean, the lyrics can, obviously, and still, play a massive role in delivering the emotion but you’ve got to also do it with music and when you can start with the music, I think it’s a massive strong part. Like, you could almost cut the words out, or have it sung in a different language and still get what they’re singing about. I think that comes through with For Tonight.
J: We were actually just talking about this last night, weren’t we? We were talking about songs that if you took out the lyrics you would still know exactly what the person was going through. So, we are very much melody-rooted humans and theatregoers as well. It’s so beautiful when you can look at something and go, “Okay, you take the lyrics part out of it and still can feel…” It’s just something so beautiful, and something that music does so well and the lyrics kind of enhance? Yeah, I love leaving the theatre and trying to kind of remember the words to a song I’ve heard once, but you know the melody as you’re driving home!
SW: And that’s why it’s been exciting to have Joseph on board, because honestly, we haven’t been able to find the right collaborator for a really long time because a lot of people don’t understand that. Or understand our vibe in regards to that. When Joseph sent over the first one, it was clear that we were going to be able to collaborate and he was going to be able to take what we gave him and kind of, you know, craft this world around it and emotion. In my emails to him, I’m always talking very emotion-based and in imagery as opposed to…
JP: That’s our language though, isn’t it? That’s how you communicate things in the world of music, at least for us it is. I love deciphering your emails! But my job is, the main thing I want to do is preserve the emotion, that’s the most important thing. I develop the soundscape with what Shenelle’s already sent me, but the first thing is to listen to the song, really understand what the message is, and the type of world they’re trying to create. And then you just do it, but the thing that I don’t ever want to do is just go overboard with my own ideas of “Let’s make it really punchy and toss in loads of bass synths” or whatever it is, that don’t have anything to do with the story or the characters. That’s where the kind of less is more approach works, because you’ve really got to think, “Okay so, this song isn’t just about the lyrics, it’s about the character’s voice” or something, and then you leave enough space in the instruments so that person’s voice can really soar. The vocalist will always be the number one thing the general public is listening to. Other composers and theatre lovers may love all the details you’ve done with the orchestrations, but a lot of the general public will just listen to the vocals, so you’ve got to make sure that vocal definitely has space and room to soar. A lot of what I do with the arranging is, if it’s ever too kind of clustered in the midrange, my job is to kind of separate it out or whatever so I can really hear the vocalist so that she can deliver the song.
SS: Orchestrator is one of the most unromantic jobs there is in the theatre scene. If you’ve done your job really well, then you don’t get orchestration comments. You get comments about the music, the songs, that part where she was belting so high, but if you’ve done your job well, nobody talks about the instrumentation.
C: I honestly just have to say, your admiration for each other’s work is just so beautiful and heartwarming. You have me wanting to cry over here, honestly! Congratulations to all of you.
SW: I just wanted to say, to your earlier question, I was just thinking, sorry to be long winded. But I just think it’s really exciting. This is completely independent, like this is the indie songwriter version of a musical theatre show. I’m saying this because I think we’re Ingrid Michaelson or something, but she is definitely an inspiration to us! She came out with her first album completely independent, I’ve been on her journey since the beginning and… I love Ingrid Michaelson though! And you’ll hear actually like, there’s definitely some of that insight of hers in our show. I just think, it doesn’t happen very often in theatre, there’s just not that many shows. I'm going to bring Les Mis up again, but it’s like, Cameron Mackintosh saw it in France, brought it over, and created this kind of independently grown show, and he hadn’t done a lot of work before that. I think we need that, we need that in theatre right now. That’s the exciting part, from like, a theatre nerd side of this. You can go on that journey, we saw it with Be More Chill, how social media influenced a show going to Broadway. We need more of that, we don’t need the gatekeepers telling us what show, what is art, because honestly the shows that have been announced for Broadway, I’m like “Not for me”. This is an opportunity to navigate that journey with us and we just want to invite everyone on that because, why not? It’s crazy, we’re doing something new! Who creates a concept album in a pandemic cross-continentally? I don’t know, we’re insane, but it’s been amazing.
J: Awesome! And like you say, it’s about the journey, and I think that so many people who love theatre and are theatre lovers, theatre nerds, watching the journey is sometimes the best part! In the sense that shows like Phantom, or Wicked, things that have been around forever, you can love the show, but you don’t get that. You don’t have that kind of experience of watching it become what it is. I think it’s so wonderful that you’re all sharing your journey, and also on this topic, for the people listening at home, I always say: support the people who are making art. It doesn’t have to be all Broadway stuff, there are people everywhere, all over the world who are making beautiful stories and beautiful music, and they deserve your support just as much. The pandemic has opened it up in the sense that we’re all online, we’re all online so much of the day, and so many people are getting into this spotlight to share what they’ve created, and I think that’s so special. I’m so glad that all of you, trans-continentally during a global pandemic, you are making a beautiful album for your show, that you all speak so passionately about and you’re going to share it with everyone! Congratulations, really. It’s amazing.
SW: Technically, you’re our first podcast, so now you’re really, really a part of our journey, and we don’t get to talk very often like this either!
SS: Thank you for having us on, we really appreciate it. Like we said, to have a no-name show, with no-name writers, people have to take risks in order to invest their time into the work that we’re doing and it really helps us on our journey when people like you have us on for interviews, so thank you.
C&J: Thank you!
J: Well, we know your names, and we’re gonna share them! We’re going to scream them from the rooftops because, if you can’t tell, we’re thrilled!
C: To conclude this very exciting episode, we now have an exclusive song for you from the For Tonight cast recording. Here is Don’t Go It Alone performed by Jade Davies, who plays the role of Molly.
To hear this exclusive preview of the album, check out our episode linked above!
For more information on For Tonight, head to www.fortonightmusical.com .
For more Breaking The Curtain, check us out on social media, Patreon, and your favourite podcast streaming service by following this link: