“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Sophomore Shannon Kelley doesn’t need to worry about the answer to this joke anymore because she has already been — three times. Drama, acting, singing, performing —  these words and activities have been constants in Shannon’s life since she was nine years old and her mother registered her for a year-long play class.

Since her theater beginning, Shannon has been in 16 musicals, usually landing one of the leading roles such as playing the Scarecrow in “Wizard of Oz” and Olive Ostrovsky in “The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee.” Her favorite performance to act in? “Hair,” where “the music was catchy, the characters were awesome and though it’s super entertaining, it also gets audiences to think about how we view war in society and how we relate to one another as people,” Kelley said.

Kelley has also competed in the National Choral competition every year since she was 15 and due to her participation in her school’s Chamber Choir – of which she later became president — she found herself performing in Carnegie Hall three years in a row, an experience that many performers can only dream about.

Now, Kelley is a theater major and math minor, “Drama and Calculus, the perfect combo,” she joked and has performed in six of Theater Fairfield’s productions. She is currently rehearsing for her seventh, a genderbent version of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” and when not rehearsing, studying or spending time with friends, she teaches herself the Ukulele, “I have five chords down and many more to go.”

“My plan is to pursue performance as a career. I can’t imagine living without it and I’d love nothing more than to spend the rest of my life creating art and bringing amazing stories to life night after night for audiences.” But, like all of the best actresses, Kelley can fit perfectly into numerous roles and has other interests in theater, so if acting doesn’t work out, Kelley will “still be involved in the arts somehow. Music and acting have helped me grow so much as a person and have been constant forms of inspiration and expression for me, so it’s always going to be in my life no matter what.”

“Tonight” — West Side Story

“This song is beautiful because it’s all about expressing your love to another person and Sondheim’s imagery makes you feel what the characters are feeling. It’s also such a cool evolution in orchestration because it starts out soft but by the end, the characters have gained so much power and the sound explodes with emotion. [This is] one of the best musical theatre duets ever.”

“I’m Not Afraid of Anything” — Songs for a New World

“The lyrics of this song are so well-written and reveal a lot about the character. It has a beautiful piano composition and the music is energetic and makes me feel empowered.”

“Still Hurting” — The Last Five Years

“This song is one of the saddest I’ve ever heard, but I love it because it’s honest and emotional. Jason Robert Brown’s lyrics are relatable and well said. He doesn’t hold back when expressing his characters’ feelings. It’s a major tear-jerker but so worth the listen.”

“Wait for It” — Hamilton

“I think Lin-Manuel Miranda is one of the most intelligent composers on Broadway right now and this song is one of my favorites because the harmonies and lyrics are absolutely breathtaking. The song’s message is one we can all relate to — sometimes it seems like nothing’s going right in life, but if we just wait and believe in ourselves, everything will fall into place.”

“Positive” — Legally Blonde

“Legally Blonde is one of the only movie-turned-musicals that I really like. The production is just hysterical and clever, and the music is fun and catchy. My best friends and I can’t help but sing along every time we hear it because it’s so upbeat, and all about supporting your friends.”

“Let the Sunshine In” — Hair

“This song will always hold a special place in my heart because ‘Hair’ is one of my favorite musicals that I’ve been in, and this finale talks about life, death and the need for hope. It’s a really powerful song because it’s an ensemble number so everyone in the cast is singing and the harmonies are outstanding. It gives me chills every time!”

“Anything Goes” — Anything Goes    

“It’s a classic Cole Porter piece with a sound that you don’t hear very often in modern musicals. The melody is unforgettable, the lyrics are witty and there’s so much character being expressed in the words!”

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-- Executive Editor Emeritus -- English Literature & Film, Television, and Media Arts

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