Houston Bell is an American book author and one of the stars of the
musical [title of show].
Bell was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and was raised in Wilson, North
Carolina until the seventh grade, when he moved to Atlanta,
Georgia. Hunter is a graduate of Webster University in St. Louis. He
moved to New York City in 1993, and currently resides there.
Like many actors, Hunter Bell began his career with smaller regional
theater productions. Some notable credits include his appearance in the
Ensemble of the 1999 Paper Mill Production of Rags, as a
Performer in the Chester, Connecticut 2002 World Premiere production of Actor,
Lawyer, Indian Chief, and as George in a 2003 Musicals in Mufti
Concert production of Oh, Boy!
Hunter Bell rose to stardom because of his work on, and appearance in,
the musical [title of show], for which he wrote the book,
alongside Jeff Bowen, who wrote the music and lyrics. The project first
appeared in the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2004, and played
on Broadway until it closed in October 2008.
Prior to the Broadway opening of [title of show], Hunter Bell
appeared in two other Broadway productions. The first was as a Dogette
in a 2006 benefit concert of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,
the second as a citizen of Whoville in the 2007 staging of Dr. Seuss'
How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
On Jeanuary 9, 2011, Hunter and Susan
Blackwell held a Die Vampire, Die! Workshop. The song "Die Vampire,
Die!" from the Broadway musical
[title of show]
— originally at Vineyard Theatre — defines a vampire as "any person,
thought, or feeling that stands between you and your creative self
expression." He and Susan returned to The Vineyard with their nationally
renowned workshop, where they invite writers and performers to identify
and nurture their creative ideas.
- Book for [title of show]
- Book for Silence! The Musical
- Book for the 137th edition of the Ringling
Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Bellobration!
- Book for "Villains Tonight!" produced on
the Disney Cruise Line.
- BC/EFA's Easter Bonnet competition.
- The Actors' Fund 125th Gala
- The Vineyard Theatre's 25th Anniversary
- Broadway Bares 18: Wonderland
- The 53rd Annual Drama Desk Awards
For work on [title of show]:
- 2006 Obie Award -- special citation
- GLAAD Media Award nomination
- Drama League Award nomination for the whole
- 2009 Tony Award nomination best book of a
Interview with Hunter in Playbill
don't know if [title of show] is too clever for the common man,
but my mother did wonder why I had mistakenly left out the title of the
show in my interview with [title of show]'s Jeff Bowen last
month, until I told her that [title of show] was actually the
title of the show. Once she got it, however, we had a good laugh. Now,
for more good laughs: I spoke to the other half of [show]'s
dynamic duo, Hunter Bell. Roughly the Gracie Allen to Bowen's George
Burns, the Tuscaloosa-born Bell ("I still say 'y'all' even though I've
been here 15 years"), who calls himself a natural hambone, was last on
Broadway inThe Grinch and has written for Ringling Brothers. Has
his life become a circus since the show opened? Let's see.
month in, how are you enjoying Broadway stardom?
Hunter Bell: [Laughs.] It's going great. After the opening, which
was as amazing as it gets, it is fun to be settled into the run. So far,
not burned out yet?
Bell: Not yet, call me in another week and I'll be all jaded,
just really calling out sick a lot…[Laughs.] It's a total dream to be on
Broadway, and to have something that we created is another part that
adds to the amazing-ness, and to get to do it with my friends, it
doesn't get any better than this, truly.
you enjoyed the responses you've been getting from Broadway crowds?
Bell: A month into it, audiences have been really supportive and
really diverse, and my hope is that that continues. There was a group of
women from Texas the other day who were like, "We just wanted to see
something different. We didn't know what this was, and we loved it."
do you say to people who feel like there are insider jokes and
references in the show that might go over people's heads?
Bell: I think the interesting thing is — and audiences hopefully
will prove this — that people have been coming and having a great time
who are not of the theatre, who just want to come and see a great show
and see something original and new and different. Are there inside
references? Totally. Do they cheat an audience from knowing what's going
on or having a great evening? I'm hard-pressed to think that because
somebody doesn't know who Betty Buckley is that it sends them spiraling
and they just shut down completely. The people that accuse it of being
insider-y are on the inside, and we get a lot of, "Well, I love it, but
there's no way anybody else will get it." It's interesting that somebody
can't stop with, "I love it." I think it speaks to the fact that Jeff
and I did not set out to write an obscure, insider musical. We set out
to tell our story, and it was about two guys writing about musical
theatre. I've said before, if we were baseball fanatics, we'd be writing
about statistics and talking about games. My brother is a television
sports producer. Friends of his were here last night. They work
producing NBA games and baseball games. They don't know about Mary
Stout, but they do know about the bigger themes that resonate: how hard
it is putting your stuff out there and achieving your dreams. People are
smart. They have the internet. We got a letter from a kid in Iowa. He
said he's coming to see the show in October, and he watches all our
clips on youtube. The internet has changed what information is
available. The New York Times is online. Playbill.com is online. You can
read an update every day about David Hyde Pierce. It's not limited to
the tri-state area. The internet has changed the game about what
people's knowledge is. People are smart everywhere is what I tend to
of the heavier moments in the show, the battles you guys get in when you
adapt the show for Broadway, how real are those?
Bell: It's interesting. I had a great writing teacher, Lynda
Barry, who wrote, "The Good Times Are Killing Me," and she had this
great word to describe her work: autobiofictionography. And, that sounds
like us a little bit. There were things that were heightened and
condensed because we wanted to write a musical comedy, not a
documentary. That being said, everything you see onstage came out of
seeds of stress. It was inflated a little bit because I tend to think
we've had a lot of therapy, and we really respect each other as
collaborators and peers. Rarely would we just storm out of a room or
fight. That's a little bit heightened because it's fun to watch onstage.
I don't know if it is as fun or interesting to watch people calmly,
collectedly, respect each other, but the seeds of what you see are
absolutely true. The questions of do we belong on Broadway, do we need
to change to fit people's preconceived notion of what a Broadway musical
is... I think what you don't see in the show is that all of us shared
those fears. Sometimes Jeff would have them, sometimes I would. For the
purposes of [title of show], the musical, what you see on stage
has been heightened.
told me you guys were invited to game night at Joanna Gleason's. How did
that turn out?
Bell: We haven't gone yet, but in my mind I hope we will be re-enactingInto
the Woods while we barbecue chicken. That's my goal. Then we'll move
into a came of Celebrity. Although, what is a game of Celebrity like
when you actually play with celebrities? But that's been amazing, the
icing on the icing on the icing on the cake. Joanna Gleason has been a
hero of mine. I came up to New York and saw Into the Woods with
her in it. To have people whose work rocked your world and blew your
mind, to have them come to see your work and get to meet them…Normally I
would be at the stage door with a Playbill and a sharpie — and I still
am — but to talk to them about their work and how they influenced you.
From Joanna Gleason to Andrea Martin to Bob Martin to Des McAnuff to
John Kander, the list goes on and on. Bill Irwin was at the show the
other night and sent back a nice note. That blows my mind. That's part
of the walking dream.
must be tempting to find a way to write such moments into the show.
Bell: Peter Gallagher came to the show the other night. Now, for
an opening-night gift, Ken Billington, who designed our lights with
Jason Kantrowitz, gave Jeff a Grind show jacket and me an A
Doll's Life show jacket. I think they had been in Ken's closet until
the opportunity came for the right people to pass them on to. So Peter
Gallagher came to the show, and I ran up to him with my A Doll's Life jacket,
and so many things came together in that moment! He was like, "Where the
hell did you get that?"