Creators and Co-Stars of "Johnny and The Devil's Box: In Concert"
Annabelle: "We met on the first day of my freshman year of college at Belmont University; the supervisor of our program was like, “Turn around and introduce yourself to someone that you don't know.” And he sat himself behind me and a friend, and I thought, “Oh, he's cute,” but never in my wildest dreams would I think we’d be back here married and having a baby. It is really quite a full-circle moment. It's awesome. We then did a show together. I just love working at the Franklin Theater because it’s just a beautiful place to work. And then Franklin was always a place for date nights, you know, to come down while we were at Belmont because it felt like a little bit out of town. I always describe Franklin that it feels like a Hallmark movie. It's just gotten better and better. And we would always joke and say, “Oh, wouldn't it be so cool who like lived in Franklin one day?” So, we did “The Sound of Music” the summer of 2012 right after graduation, and I guess it was the last time we performed at the Franklin Theatre. We just became obsessed with Franklin while doing that show specifically, and we didn't know what our trajectory would look like after that show to perform at the theater again. And literally we have not stepped foot on this stage since. Being able to have a small community that we formed at Belmont is everything; just having an opportunity to perform your work is great. Sondheim said anytime you can get your work up on its feet, do it, you know? Anywhere, no matter what. And we've tried to live by that. We're always looking for opportunities to do the show, do the work, and get in front of an audience because that's what it's about. Yes, Williamson County has supported us, but also, Williamson County is part of the world. It's just part of these connections that we've been building for a long time, and it is really wonderful to be able to come back to a place that we already love to share what we have been working on, what we've been cooking up for the past decade almost."
Douglas: "I moved to NYC Jan. 1, 2013, Annabelle in 2015. We had wonderful experiences and loved our life there while developing this show. We both worked at multiple theaters across the country as well, but because of COVID, we couldn't afford to live there anymore. So, we said, “Let's take a break, move to Nashville, and record an album and then maybe in 6 months, we'll move back to New York.” We're still here, and we love it. I like to say coming here wasn't a fallback but rather a fast-forward, because we always wanted to be back here eventually – we just thought it would be a bit later in our timeline. So, we're really happy that the time is now. And honestly, as much as the pandemic has been horrible, it was a catalyst for us take this jump in our lives and careers. I'm a fiddle player, so I've always loved stories about fiddle players. Nashville was always the place - the Grand Ole Opry, you know– the place to get to. We were here actually doing Fiddler on the Roof at Studio Tenn. One night I went to a jam session at the Station Inn and met a songwriter who asked me what I was working on, I think expecting me to be a songwriter too. But I said, “I want to write a bluegrass musical.” He said, “Do it! You should do it!” He gave me the permission I needed to just start writing. And from there, a lot of doors started opening. We've had all these opportunities to workshop and develop the show. The creative process was basically me wanting to write a show that I could play the fiddle in, and that Annabelle could be in. So when I heard just do it – I just did it. I've always loved bluegrass music. My favorite movie has always been “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?” I just want to live in that world for some reason. There's a mythology about it, and that's very much what “Johnny and The Devil's Box” is, in its own way of course. Also, working off Broadway with that process was so inspiring. I would talk about my show, and they would encourage me to keep going. I've always said, I'll keep going until somebody says to stop, and nobody has said stop yet."
Annabelle: "The one stop was COVID. But in those moments of cancellation, we had some hard conversations where we asked if we were going to put this to rest or if it was worth fighting for. Obviously, we've been fighting for it. Just like so many artists and creatives, we all had to take a pause. But it’s those moments I think that makes us stronger. We're either going to decide to quit or decide to pivot, shift, and create things outside of the box. So many opportunities we‘ve been given are far beyond what we could have possibly expected. Now that we're slowly coming out of the COVID bubble, it makes all that hard work and patient waiting worth it. Now when people say “yes”, it means more; the gratitude is just so much richer than it was before COVID, which feels like a weird thing to say. It makes things more precious and profound; just developing a new musical is hard, and you throw a pandemic into the mix, and it makes it nearly impossible. Theatre budgets are smaller now with the hits they took from show closures, and so patience has definitely been challenged. When opportunities like this come up, we’re glad that we pushed through, and that people still are so supportive of the arts in so many different ways. You need to have an outlet to express emotions, whether it's from a song or watching a beautiful show or following a character's journey. The arts are so cathartic, and I think that's a reason why “Johnny and The Devil’s Box” is so needed right now, because it's a show about bridging communities. It's a show that explains why music is so important and imperative to a community. Franklin literally thrives on music. Puckett’s has live music, Gray’s has live music, the Franklin Theater has concerts all the time. It’s just cool how it's all tied together."
Douglas: "I guess it's the same for any form of art, but you can't take your audience for granted or underestimate them; you have to invite them in as co-collaborators. With the storytelling, you know, you don't have to tell them everything. You can infer things and insinuate things, which is much more exciting. Really great art invites you to think creatively about what the possibilities are. There’s sort of a stigma around earlier musicals, that they’re not interesting or they're old fashioned. But we now have shows like “Hamilton” that turn the idea of what theatre is on its head. It’s okay to be creative in any art form, and just because it's Nashville doesn't mean it’s only a place for songwriters. It's a very vibrant community, and I really believe Nashville deserves to have its own brand of musical theater. In fact, we've started a group called New Musical Theater Nashville, that's partnered with the Johnny Mercer Foundation, to do a monthly writer’s meeting for musical theater writers in Nashville to meet and share what they're working on and support each other. We’re also partnering with Sid Golds over in East Nashville. We’re just trying to make the connections and support this community as much as we can. For all that Nashville and Franklin have done for us, now we want to give back."
- Douglas Fox, creator of "Johnny and The Devil's Box: In Concert" performing at The Franklin Theatre on September 16, 2022.
- Annabelle Fox, co-star of "Johnny and The Devil's Box: In Concert" performing at The Franklin Theatre on September 16, 2022.