Side Show’s Bill Russell Shares His 10 Most Memorable Theatregoing Experiences

Favorite Things   Their Favorite Things: Side Show’s Bill Russell Shares His 10 Most Memorable Theatregoing Experiences
 
Favorites of the lyricist and librettist include Lena Horne, Angela Lansbury, Hugh Jackman and more.
Bill Russel HR

Bill Russell—the Tony-nominated lyricist and librettist of the critically acclaimed musical Side Show, which debuted on Broadway in 1997 and was revived in 2014—shares the performances that most affected him as part of the audience. Side Show, which concerns the lives of conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton, will make its London bow October 21-December 3 starring Louise Dearman and Laura Pitt-Pulford at the Southwark Playhouse.

Lena Horne in The Lady and Her Music

Lena Horne  in <i>The Lady and Her Music</i>
Lena Horne in The Lady and Her Music

Absolutely stunning. We saw it the night after opening when she had received reviews that were beyond glowing. In turn she positively glowed, and I will never forget it.

Alan Cumming in Cabaret

Alan Cumming and The Kit Kat Girls in Cabaret.
Alan Cumming and The Kit Kat Girls in Cabaret. Joan Marcus

A revelation. The finest male performance I've ever seen in a musical.

Audra McDonald in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill

Audra McDonald in <i>Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill</i>
Audra McDonald in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill Photo by Evgenia Eliseeva

Because of her classical training, I wasn't sure this was going to work, but within two seconds I thought Billie Holiday had returned from the grave. Completely mesmerizing.

Angela Lansbury in Sweeney Todd

nypl.digitalcollections.818e3431-914b-b52b-e040-e00a18060210.001.w.jpg
Angela Lansbury in Sweeney Todd Martha Swope/NYPL

She can do no wrong. But this performance was consummate. Funny, scary, the perfect fit of actor and role.

Mark Rylance — in everything — but in Boeing-Boeing if I had to pick one

Mark Rylance in <i>Boeing-Boeing</i>
Mark Rylance in Boeing-Boeing Joan Marcus

I've seen everything he's done on Broadway and consider him our finest living stage actor. So hard to choose one role, but I always appreciate comedy. His Richard III was revelatory in that regard.

Al Pacino in American Buffalo

Al Pacino and J.J. Johnston in <i>American Buffalo</i>
Al Pacino and J.J. Johnston in American Buffalo Peter Cunningham

He is always electric on stage. This performance at Circle in the Square downtown was like having him perform in your living room.

Vanessa Redgrave in A Long Day's Journey Into Night

Robert Sean Leonard and Vanessa Redgrave in Long Day's Journey Into Night.
Robert Sean Leonard and Vanessa Redgrave in Long Day's Journey Into Night. Joan Marcus

Mesmerizing, indelible.

Hugh Jackman in Back on Broadway

Hugh Jackman in <i>Back On Broadway</i>
Hugh Jackman in Back On Broadway Joan Marcus

We first discovered him in Oklahoma! in London and left asking, “Who was that guy playing Curly?” Soon, everyone knew. An all-around entertainer in this show, totally charming.

Matthew Broderick in Torch Song Trilogy

HR - Matthew Broderick.jpg
Matthew Broderick

We saw it Off Off-Broadway when it ran over four hours. We liked the play a lot but again left asking, “Who was that kid?” I think he was 17, and it was a thrilling debut.

Kristin Chenoweth in On the Twentieth Century

Andy Karl and Kristin Chenoweth in <i>On the Twentieth Century</i>
Andy Karl and Kristin Chenoweth in On the Twentieth Century Joan Marcus

Another perfect match of performer and role. I can't imagine anyone doing it better.