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Bill Russell (lyricist)

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Bill Russell (born 1949) is an American librettist and lyricist. Among his stage musicals are Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens and Side Show, which was nominated for the Tony Award as Best Musical.


Russell's first musical to be produced is Fortune, which ran Off-Broadway at the Actors' Plahouse from April 27, 1980 to November 23, 1980. Ronald Melrose wrote the music, with Russell writing the book and lyrics. The musical director and arranger was Janet Hood; they have gone on to write several musicals together.[1] The musical concerned four performers who were headed to be stars. According to The New York Times reviewer, John Corry, it "marked the maturity of the gay musical", and he commended the "literate" lyrics.[2]

Russell wrote the book and lyrics for the song cycle Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens, with music by Janet Hood, which originally ran Off-Off-Broadway in 1990 and in the West End in 1993.[3] It played a benefit concert in 2001.[4]

He wrote the book and lyrics for the musical Pageant with Frank Kelly; the music is by Albert Evans, and conception by Robert Longbottom. The musical, which has an all-male cast that plays beauty queens premiered Off-Broadway at the Blue Angel in 1991,[5] and subsequently ran Off-Broadway at New World Stages in 2013, as well as engagements in London (2000) and Australia.[6][7]

He wrote the concert adaptation of the musical Call Me Madam for the New York City Center Encores! staged concert series, which was presented in February 1995 and starred Tyne Daly.[8]

Russell write the book and lyrics for the musical Side Show (music by Henry Krieger),[9] which ran on Broadway in 1997.[10]

He wrote the book and lyrics for the musical Up in The Air, with music by Henry Krieger, conceived and directed by Amon Miyamoto. It premiered at the Kennedy Center in February 2008.[11] The musical is suggested by a Japanese story, about Boonah, the tree-climbing frog.[12]

He wrote the lyrics and book with Jeffrey Hatcher for the musical Lucky Duck, with music by Henry Krieger.[13] It premiered Off-Broadway at the New Victory Theater in March 2012. The musical starts where the fairy tale "The Ugly Duckling" ends, "showing what happens once one becomes beautiful." It premiered at TheatreWorks, Palo Alto, California, in 2000, then called Everything's Ducky.[14]

He wrote the book and lyrics for the musical The Last Smoker in America, with music by Peter Melnick. The musical opened Off-Broadway in August 2012.[15]

Russell and Janet Hood have teamed again to write the musical Unexpected Joy, which received private readings in March 2012. The musical is the story of four women and was directed by Sheryl Kaller.[16]

Honors and awards

Russell received a 1998 Tony nomination for Side Show for Best Book and shared a nomination with composer Henry Krieger for Best Score. The show was nominated as Best Musical.[17]

Everything's Ducky received the Will Glickman Award for Best New Play (in the San Francisco Bay Area) in 2001[18] and Garland Awards (presented by "Backstage West") for Best Score, Set and Costumes. He has also received two Commendation Awards from the Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation (one in 2000).[19] He received an honorary degree of doctor of humane letters from Morningside College in 2003[20] and from the Boston Conservatory in May 2007.[21]


Russell was born in Deadwood, South Dakota and raised in Spearfish, South Dakota. His grandparents were cattle ranchers. He attended Morningside College, Sioux City, Iowa for two years with a major in theater before transferring to the University of Kansas.[22] He came out in an interview with the Rapid City Journal. He married Bruce Bossard in 2009,[23] and they had been a couple for 30 years before that.[24]


  1. ^ Fortune Archived 2007-10-19 at the Wayback Machine Internet Off-Broadway Database, accessed June 16, 2014
  2. ^ Dietz, Dan. Fortune Off Broadway Musicals, 1910-2007, Casts, Credits, Songs, McFarland, 2010, ISBN 0786457317, p. 154
  3. ^ "Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens", accessed June 14, 2014
  4. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Bill Russell's 'Elegies for Angels, Punks & Raging Queens' Now on CD" Archived July 14, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, July 27, 2001
  5. ^ Holden, Stephen. "Theater in Review", The New York Times, May 8, 1991
  6. ^ Hetrick, Adam. " 'Pageant' Will Compete Off-Broadway at New World Stages" Archived June 3, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, May 2, 2013
  7. ^ Staff. " 'Pageant' Confirmed for West End Run" Archived 2014-06-16 at, 10 July 2000
  8. ^ Holden, Stephen. "Theater Review. A Madam with the Mostest" Archived January 14, 2016, at the Wayback Machine The New York Times, February 18, 1995
  9. ^ Staff (December 15, 1997). "Playbill Critics Circle: Review Side Show". Archived from the original on October 21, 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
  10. ^ Lefkowitz, David and Viagas, Robert. Side Show Cast and Fans Campaign To Save the Show" Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine, December 24, 1997
  11. ^ Russell, Bill (February 9, 2008). "A Soaring Musical Fable for Kids". Washington Post. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
  12. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Krieger and Russell's 'Up in the Air' Musical Will Debut at Kennedy Center", October 9, 2007
  13. ^ Russell, Bill (March 18, 2012). ""Lucky" is just ducky". New York Post.
  14. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Henry Krieger and Bill Russell's 'Lucky Duck' Makes New York Debut March 16" Archived July 14, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, March 16, 2012
  15. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Farah Alvin, Natalie Venetia Belcon, John Bolton, Jake Boyd Cast in Off-Broadway's 'Last Smoker' " Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine, June 11, 2012
  16. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Bill Russell-Janet Hood Musical 'Unexpected Joy', With Lillias White, Gets NYC Readings March 29-30", March 29, 2012
  17. ^ Viagas, Robert and Simonson, Robert. " 'Ragtime', 'Lion King', 'Beauty Queen' Lead Tony Nominations" Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine, May 4, 1998
  18. ^ "Will Glickman Award Recipients", accessed June 16, 2014
  19. ^ Ehren, Christine. "Party Hearty: Lippa Awarded Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Award Oct. 30", October 30, 2000
  20. ^ "Morningside College presents concert version of Broadway musical 'Side Show' ", June 27, 2008
  21. ^ "Yesterday's commencements. The Boston Conservatory", May 13, 2007
  22. ^ "Guide, About the Playwrights, p.6" South Coast Repertory (, accessed June 14, 2014
  23. ^ "Weddings/Celebrations. Bill Russell, Bruce Bossard" The New York Times, July 11, 2009
  24. ^ Russell, Bill. " 'The Biggest Freak in the World' - Side Show's Bill Russell on Coming Out Among the Cowboys" Archived July 14, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, June 10, 2014
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Bill Russell (lyricist)
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