Spotlight Series: Meet Composer, Conductor, Lyricist, and Producer Christopher Raymond


This Spotlight focuses on composer, conductor, lyricist, and producer Christopher Raymond who has won an NAACP, Stage Raw, and Broadway World Awards for his work in theatre. Chris has also music directed several Los Angeles area awards shows as well as 14 productions with DOMA Theatre Company in Hollywood, among many others. And in December 2018, he became Music Director for Valley Outreach Synagogue in Calabasas where Passover and Shabbat services are being LiveStreamed from home.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your professional background?

Christopher Raymond (Chris): I started my career at the age of 15 by playing in the band for Jason Robert Brown's 13 The Musical at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, Mark Taper Forum and on Broadway.

(SB): I saw 13 The Musical at both the Kirk Douglas Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum and really loved the energy in the show. And all the teenage emotions bursting at the seams reminded me of many challenging days I experienced as a middle and high school teacher.

(Chris): I then went on to study music at CalArts, and am now a composer, lyricist and music director, and have won an NAACP, Stage Raw, and Broadway World Award for my work in theatre.

I co-wrote the theme song for the show, Troy (which opened at the 80,000-seat Beijing National Stadium in July, 2017), and music directed and orchestrated the Ovation Awards twice (at The Ahmanson Theatre and at the Theatre at Ace Hotel). I also music directed / arranged the LA Drama Critics Circle Awards twice.

I music directed, conducted and played piano for 14 productions with DOMA Theatre Company in Hollywood, including prominent revivals of Avenue Q, American Idiot, and Dreamgirls (which was awarded "Best Musical" by the LA Drama Critics Circle Awards and the LA Times Awards.)

I recently wrote the book, music and lyrics for Scarlet Letter: The Musical, which had a workshop production at Greenway Court Theatre. A highlights reel for the musical is available on YouTube here:

In December 2018, I became Music Director for Valley Outreach Synagogue in Calabasas. Working with Rabbi Ron Li-Paz, Cantor Michael Li-Paz, Chaplain Jennifer Eaves Nye and the rest of the VOS team is a continually inspiring experience.

(SB): How has COVID-19 affected your work at your Synagogue?

(Chris): The quarantine orders began in Los Angeles shortly before Passover. Due to this, we at VOS held two virtual Seders on our website. The Rabbi, Cantor, Chaplain, and myself LiveStreamed our Seders from our respective homes as our congregation joined us from their homes. It was a beautiful way to create joy and unity during a challenging time for the world.

We are currently LiveStreaming our Shabbat Services on Friday nights and all of our classes are being held online. We are grateful to live in a time when technology allows us to continue functioning and providing help as a Synagogue while our leadership and membership remain safely isolated at home.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Chris): I have been recording / composing music in my home studio and I have also been making musical videos for Valley Outreach Synagogue's website. I have also had an opportunity to watch and support many friends' musical and arts-related projects online, which has been a joy.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Chris): As a community, we are all going through uncharted waters, but I believe that at the end of the day we will be stronger and hopefully a bit wiser from the lessons we've learned during this pandemic. May we all stay safe and do our best to keep up our spirits/morale by continuing to learn, grow and create / appreciate art.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Shelley Fisher, “The Hebrew Hillbilly”


This Spotlight  focuses on Shelley Fisher, a down home diva better known as The Hebrew Hillbilly, her persona in her solo music play which is the longest running in the USA. Believing that music is the universal language which brings healing and encouragement to everyone, performing her show fuels the flames of creativity and hope for Shelley, and comedy provides a welcome break from the weight of life as it is today. So, what is she up to until she can back inside the Santa Monica Playhouse to perform for an audience again?


Shelley was born and raised in the heart of the Mississippi Delta in Memphis, TN, the home of The Blues and the birthplace of Rock n’ Roll, which inspired her love of music and performing. Her mother was a professional singer/comedian and her father was a concert violinist who co-founded the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. The gritty musical backbeat of Beale Street and the King of Rock n’ Roll himself, Elvis, coupled with her parents influence, made performing a natural focus of Shelley's early life in local talent shows and high school theater. She moved on to Boston University, studied fine arts and drama and formed her own Blues/Folk band.

"I’m the writer and performer of the longest running critically acclaimed solo musical play in the USA, The Hebrew Hillbilly, which is autobiographically based on my true story of growing up Jewish in the red neck South and is a celebration of diversity, dreams and determination! Obviously, it has hit a popular nerve and is perfect for this time of Passover, Easter & Coronavirus, since for the first time in modern history, Passover and Easter have been canceled due to a Plague.  With 17 original songs I wrote with my co-songwriters Ken Hirsch, Harold Payne and Steve Rawlins, we were preparing for a May 17th benefit performance for Santa Monica Playhouse when the Coronavirus pandemic shut down civilization as we know it."

Since it’s a solo musical play, Shelley only had to contact her audio visual staff, management and acting coach, Missy Peikin, about postponing its current run, and the co-artistic directors of Santa Monica Playhouse, Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo. Evelyn and Chris are seasoned veterans of the theater who welcomed Shelley almost eight years ago and deftly knew how to deal with the current situation. And, if the fates allow, all three are looking forward to present The Hebrew Hillbilly on Sunday, June 28th at 6:30pm as a Benefit Performance for the Santa Monica Playhouse. Of course with uncertainty of the pandemic, all her other productions, including national television (JBSTV), theatrical presentations in Florida, Atlanta, and NYC are now on hold.

To keep her creative juices flowing, Shelley is skyping and zooming with other noted songwriters, including Harold Payne and Steve Rawlins, to create new songs. "I’m also sending bi-weekly emails to friends and fans, posting on my Facebook public page, The Hebrew Hillbilly: Fifty Shades of Oy Vey! and on my website HebrewHillbilly.com."

"Music and performing fuel the flames of creativity and hope. The universal language, music, brings healing and encouragement to everyone. And comedy provides a welcome break from the weight of life as it is today. Take two Ha Ha’s and call me in the morning! We’ll be back soon."

The Hebrew Hillbilly is designed to entertain and encourage folks to never give up on their dreams. If one dream doesn’t work, get another one. The finale says it all: ‘I’m Still Hot’ (It Comes In Flashes Now).

You can hear Shelley's CD, Rockin' in Memphis on Amazon, and her latest song, ‘I Wanna Win A Grammy (Before I Am A Grammy)’ is available at Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, and CDBaby.

Link to short (1 min 49 sec) performance video:

Be Glad You’re Different:

Miami Beach:


This article first appeared on Broadway World.