Tony Award Nomination Thrice as Nice for The Color Purple Songwriting Trio

Tony Awards   Tony Award Nomination Thrice as Nice for The Color Purple Songwriting Trio
Songwriting teams have always been a part of the musical theatre and for The Color Purple's Tony Award-nominated composer-lyricists Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray adding a third to the mix proved helpful.

"I actually thought it was easier," Willis told about the trio's dynamic. "I mean the challenges were certainly there, but we right from the beginning said this has got to be a democracy or we'll never get anywhere. So, as soon as two people felt strong about something, you had to give up your stand." She quickly added "Not that you couldn't bring it up later" — to which the threesome all laughed in agreement.

Russell found that alliances would quickly change, too: "Sometimes it would totally flip-flop like the two against the one and then, all of a sudden, the next day it would be like 'You know, you were right about that' and the whole thing would turn around."

Proving they have different mindsets, when asked what their biggest challenge was in writing the Tony Award nominee for Best Musical's score, Russell chimed in first: "I would say re-writing the music. That was kind of difficult. If anything in the scene changed, you had to change the song. It was so many things changing constantly and as pop writers, we're not used to re-writing songs on the spot for an artist."

To which Willis countered: "I feel differently about that. For me, it was just really interesting to get to tweak and tweak and tweak because in pop music, we don't have a chance to. So, I actually loved that because it made everything feel more substantial."

Bray agreed with the latter: "I'm with Allee on that actually. I'm the kind of person if you let me go, I'll just keep changing it. It's never really good enough anyway. It's a perfect medium for a nitpicker like myself." Where the team does agree is on the difficulty in choosing a favorite moment in the show. Bray offers "There's so many." Russell concurs "Our hearts are so in this that it's hard to pick special moments."

Are they bitten by the musical theatre bug? Can we expect more musicals from the three songwriters? "If the right material comes along, absolutely," begins Bray. "It's an unbelievable medium... getting to translate a story and being as visual as you get to be, it presents an entirely different challenge than a pop song, but so satisfying," explains Willis.

Bray continues "It's the most fun I've ever had. I love being in the midst of this big machine of director, cast, choreographer [etc.] As a songwriter, you're usually by yourself or with one other person for the whole process. But this is like being in a planetary-sized group of people."

Russell adds "Plus the history of this community is incredible. Some of my favorite songs are from old Broadway writers of the 40s and so. It's such an honor to be a part of that community."

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