Musical Theatre DNA: “For Tonight” Concept Album Star – Joey Cornish

Producer Blair Russell’s new concept album of the new bilingual musical For Tonight, (featuring a cast of West End musical theatre actors and a full Welsh ensemble), will be released via all digital platforms this summer.

The new, original, musical inspired by writer Spencer Williams’s three times great grandfather’s handwritten journal, and is an exploration of the power and meaning of home, Set in a small town in Northern Wales during 1832, the musical features an atmospheric soundscape blended with traditional Welsh choral, indie-pop, folk, and Romani-inspired melodies and rhythms.

The cast of For Tonight features Joey Cornish who hails from the Llynfi Valley in South Wales. Joey graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in 2020, receiving the Catherine Zeta-Jones Scholarship. Since graduating, he has enjoyed working on numerous new writing and online theatre projects with the Welsh theatre company August012. His credits whilst training include; Melchior Gabor in Spring Awakening, Henrik in A Little Night Music and Pippin in Pippin.

Here in the first of a brand-new series looking at stars from the world of musical theatre, Joey chats to Andy Howells about his musical theatre inspirations!

Joey Cornish features on the For Tonight Concept album

Can you tell us about your current project – For Tonight?

I responded to a callout for Welsh Musical Theatre singers on Instagram back at the beginning of 2021, just thinking it would be a small project to pass the time during lockdowns, work with some new people and maybe make some new connections along the way. I did not expect to have finished recording a full concept cast album from my bedroom 5 months later!

For Tonight is written by American composers Shenelle Salcido and Spencer Williams and tells the story of a Welsh family in the mid-1800s to a beautiful indie-rock score infused with some Welsh choral/folk and Romani sounds. The story is based on Spencer’s great-great-great-great grandfather who was from North Wales and follows three siblings who each take a different path after the loss of their parents.

As we’ve been recording the album during the pandemic, we’ve all been recording individually in our homes as opposed to all together in one studio. I’ve heard a few snippets of the final product and they sound amazing. I’m not sure how the creative and editing teams have managed it, but it sounds like we were all in the same room, blending perfectly. The score really is beautiful and has a new, exciting sound and the talent in the cast is off the scale. I cannot wait for everyone to hear it. This show is definitely one to keep an eye on!

What was your first musical role?

The first show I ever did was a production of Seussical with Curtain Up Youth Theatre in Maesteg. I was around 8 or 9 and I was in the chorus. Shortly after that I played Chip in Beauty and The Beast with Maesteg Amateur Operatic Society and spent the whole show crammed into a wooden trolley with my head stuck out of the top in a foam teacup (On the bright side I didn’t have to learn any blocking or choreography.) A promising start to my career!

The cast for the UK concept recording of For Tonight

What has been your favourite musical part to play?

Whilst training at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, I was cast as Melchior Gabor in ‘Spring Awakening’. I absolutely love that show and always wanted to play Melchior. The script, characters and themes are all so complex and dark yet presented in such a funny and heart-breaking way – I really enjoyed getting stuck into it as an actor. The score is a really accessible folk/pop/rock mix yet is so musically mature and full of juicy clashy harmonies. So I’d have to say that. Plus, to do a show with all of my best pals was an absolute dream. Unfortunately, the pandemic put a stop to the whole project a week before opening night. But it was a great experience regardless.

If you could play one part what would it be and why?

I would love to play Quasimodo in the stage version of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’. That whole score is one of my all-time favourites. Alan Menken’s music paired with Stephen Schwartz’s lyrics and some stunning orchestrations is just amazing. To get the chance to analyse, interpret and perform that score and the complex characters within it would be incredible.

What was the first musical you saw?

I think it was an amateur production of ‘Little Shop Of Horrors’ in Maesteg Town Hall. Looking back I think it’s a great first show to watch – it has a bit of everything, a great story, great characters, comedy, heartache, love. The score is brilliant too and I remain a big fan of Alan Menken’s music to this day.

What was the last musical you watched (on stage or online)?

I watched ‘Amelie’ in the Criterion theatre a couple of weeks ago. I absolutely loved it. As a musician, Actor-Musician shows will always impress me and this particular show was outstanding. Maybe it hit even harder as I hadn’t watched live theatre in over a year (or because I managed to nab a cheap last-minute front row seat) but it was an absolute joy to experience and I’m aching to see it again soon. It just had a bit of everything in it.

Who is your favourite stage musical star?

A few names come to mind here but I think the standout has to be Ramin Karimloo. His voice is one of the most impressive sounds in theatre. I’m yet to see him live, but every time I re-watch him as the Phantom in the ‘Phantom of the Opera’s 25th anniversary’ production it blows me away. Such clean, pure and powerful tone and his acting and characterisation are never sacrificed.

The UK Concept recording of For Tonight will be available this summer through all digital platforms

What’s your best musical memory?

This is a tough one as there have been so many as both an actor and as an audience member. But I remember watching ‘Wicked’ for the first time in the WMC and I can vividly remember making the decision in my head that this was what I wanted to do as a career. It was in the middle of ‘No Good Deed’ in the second act where the orchestration absolutely smacks you in the face with power and gives you that buzz that only music can. There was no question for me from then on. So that’s a pretty powerful memory.

What’s your ultimate feel good musical and why?

Another tough question! It changes so regularly depending on what kind of mood I’m in. But as a general rule, ‘The Book of Mormon’ will always cheer me up. The way the score is written is so clever. The comedy is heightened so perfectly with the use of music and the score portrays the characters’ subconscious perfectly. It’s comedy without sacrificing musical maturity. The subtle call-backs to other musicals in the score are brilliant, the characters are hilarious and the score just gets me pumped. It does it all in my opinion.

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