14 Reasons to be Excited about Songs for Nobodies

by Northlight Theatre

We’re counting down the days until we return to in-person performances with Songs for Nobodies by Joanna Murray-Smith. To celebrate, we’re giving you 14 reasons to be excited about the show.


The Team

  1. Leading lady Bethany Thomas is a musical chameleon. Not only does she channel five different singers in Songs for Nobodies, but works in a huge spectrum of musical genres IRL. She’s a singer-songwriter with experience in rock, alt-country, punk, soul, and has her own solo rock album BT/She/Her.
  2. Director Rob Lindley is also an actor—and he may not be a playwright, but he plays one onstage! You may have seen him at Northlight opposite George Wendt and Tim Kazurinsky, originating the role of playwright Victor LaPlante in the world premiere Funnyman.
  3. From Gilbert & Sullivan to Green Day, music director Andra Velis Simon has done it all! Her production credits run the gamut from the classics to the contemporary, garnering raves for “endlessly amusing live accompaniment” (Chicago Tribune), “impeccably realized” scores (Time Out Chicago), and for “smoking up the keyboard” (Chicago Free Press).
  4. Playwright Joanna Murray-Smith is a household name… in Australia. She’s won the Victorian Premier’s literary prize for drama twice (think “Pulitzer Prize,” down under), and has written 25 plays, with roles taken on by leading ladies such as Meryl Streep, Laura Linney, and Annette Bening.


The Somebodies

  1. Billie Holiday broke barriers. She was the first black woman to work with a white orchestra when she paired with clarinetist, composer, and bandleader Artie Shaw in 1938.
  2. Edith Piaf fought for the resistance. She used her tour in Germany during World War II as an opportunity to gather photos of prisoners, turning the photos into passports and false papers, enabling many of the prisoners to escape.
  3. Judy Garland was a record breaker. Her two-record live recording Judy at Carnegie Hall (the concert after which we meet her in the play), won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, making Garland the first woman to ever win the award.
  4. Patsy Cline was a trailblazer. Despite the disdain of some Opry members, Cline broke gender norms by becoming the first woman to wear pants on the Grand Ole Opry.
  5. Maria Callas could rise to a challenge. The great turning point in her career happened when she was pulled in to cover a leading soprano role with only 6 days to prepare – and triumphed, leading to her debut at La Scala two years later.


The Tunes

  1. Everyone loves “Come Rain or Come Shine.” The tune often associated with Judy Garland was originally written for the musical Louis Woman in 1946 and has been recorded by a host of renowned artists since Judy, including Connie Francis, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Bette Midler, BB King, Etta James, Rufus Wainwright, and Willie Nelson.
  2. Opera aficionados agree: Maria Callas and Tosca go hand-in-hand. The New York Times argued “The Best Opera Recording Ever Is Maria Callas Singing ‘Tosca.’” and the aria from Act 2 “Vissi d’arte” (I lived for art, I lived for love) is emblematic of the opera diva’s life.
  3. Recorded and made famous by Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” is a song protesting the lynching of Black Americans. Lesser known is that the lyrics were drawn from a poem by poet Abel Meeropol, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants in the Bronx.
  4. The lyrics of Edith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” describe the speaker letting go of a lifetime of emotional baggage… which must have been a challenging sentiment for Piaf, who was abandoned by her mother, lost her own daughter to meningitis, and lost the love of her life in a plane crash.
  5. If at first you don’t succeed, Patsy Cline proved you should try, try again (and again and again). Her first four singles completely flopped, but she kept on trying, and finally scored her first big hit with “Walkin’ After Midnight” in 1957, leading up to the hugely successful “Crazy” in 1961.


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