ContemporaryMusicalTheatre.com is dedicated to bringing new musical theatre writers and songs out into the world for singers, teachers, educators and institutions to discover. So we’re always super excited to learn about productions of new musicals featuring writers from our roster.
Bill Nelson has been a writer on our site since our inception (and side note, he is also the graphic designer responsible for our fabulous ContemporaryMusicalTheatre.com logo!).
Bill’s show, Men With Money, co-written with Joseph Trefler, is having its world premiere at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville, Georgia beginning on March 7. We were curious to find out how this gay-themed musical set in New York City found it’s way to Gwinnett County, Georgia. Following is our interview with Bill and the staff at the Aurora.
Bill Nelson: Since our blackbox workshop in Queens, our biggest changes involved making sure that we’re always showing the audience why they should root for characters and relationships rather than assuming everyone will love them as much as we do. We’ve also re-written the opening number multiple times to finally land on one that allows the audience to take in the information that the world of the show is a 1950s in which gay people and people of all stripes are treated equally—and to take it in quickly enough to keep the motor of this high-energy show running. We’ve reconfigured the order of scenes for a stronger flow and more satisfying spacing of big production numbers. In some cases, we’ve discovered what types of actors are needed to make certain roles work, and we cast appropriately. And we’ve pumped up the part of the evil landlady, in part due to the hilarious actor playing her at Aurora who revealed the character’s potential.
CMT: Aurora Theatre has brought you down to Georgia to work on the show. What has your experience been working on the show while it’s in rehearsals?
Bill Nelson: This is the first gay-themed show that Aurora has done. They’re taking a chance on it, believing that our joyful, positive show with a Golden Age sensibility is a great way to introduce their audiences to characters that may be uncomfortable for some of them. We definitely intend Men with Money to be for all people, not just LGBTQIA folks, and we’re grateful that our world premiere production is at a theatre for general audiences. The cast, which is mostly local, is fantastic and fully embracing what we’re going for. Everyone at Aurora is a warm, supportive, top-notch professional. My collaborator Joseph Trefler and I feel heard and valued by everyone involved. Director Justin Anderson is fully devoted to respecting the text. He and Ann-Carol Pence (co-founder of Aurora and the show’s musical director) create a harmonious, upbeat working environment.
The show has a lot of locations, some switching quickly in a cinematic way. It’s been fun watching the set designer, director, and stage management come up with ways to create a kinetic physical world. They’re using every inch of backstage space to store set pieces, which include an airplane and a sailboat that actors split in two to get on and offstage.
We did a reading down here in October with most of the same actors. Having that “pre-production” time working with the creative team and the actors was super helpful in having a chance to learn how everyone works. And during the process, the director, choreographer and musical director learned more about what Joseph and I are going for, and what elements of the show being done a certain way are really important to us. That has made rehearsals for the production move quickly and smoothly.
CMT: This show is very much based in New York City. Have you had to make adjustments for your southern audience?
Bill Nelson: No. If anything, our buoyant, idealized version of New York City might be more how people who don’t live in New York see the city than New Yorkers who are used to drudging through dirty snow sludge or smelling summery urine-soaked garbage baking on the curb.
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“Men with Money” runs at the Aurora Theatre from March 7, 2019 – April 7, 2019. For tickets and more information, go to AuroraTheatre.com.
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