Nolan Williams Jr. composed the music and lyrics for his award-winning musical “Grace.” (Courtesy of André Chung)
Nolan Williams Jr. composed the music and lyrics for his award-winning musical “Grace.” (Courtesy of André Chung)

A locally produced musical about saving a family-owned restaurant in Philadelphia has won 11  “Broadway World-Washington, DC Awards.” 

With music and lyrics composed by Nolan Williams Jr., the book by Williams and Nikkole Salter, and Robert Barry Fleming as choreographer, “Grace” played to enthusiastic audiences at Ford’s Theatre last spring. The core production team scooped up top awards at the “Broadway World- Washington, DC Awards” — an outstanding accomplishment since the musical was nominated in 12 categories.

“In a market full of rich theater offerings, it is tremendous that we have emerged as the clear people’s choice,” Williams said. “It’s exciting because it speaks to how the show’s message, music, and spirit resonates with everyday folks and astute theatergoers.”

“Grace” won: Best Musical, Best New Musical, Best Direction, Best Choreography, Best Ensemble Performance, Best Lighting Design, Best Scenic Design, Best Sound Design, Best Costume Design, Best Music Direction and Best Orchestra Performance. Lead actress Nova Y. Payton received the Best Performer in a Musical award. 

The Road to Awards for ‘Grace’

From the opening musical number of “Grace,” it was clear the production had its sights set on going beyond the D.C. market. Smart dialog, songs that were an extension of the script, funny inter-family jokes, and closely held secrets were all featured under a cloud of potentially losing the treasured family restaurant.

“Broadway World” created the award categories. The publication is a national theater news site with regional editions. Theatergoers nominate what shows are worthy of consideration. The voting was online after theater patrons registered on the “Broadway World” site and then cast their votes.

In addition to the “Broadway World” awards, nominations were recently announced for the Helen Hayes Awards, a theater recognition that began in 1983. Payton was nominated as Outstanding Lead Performer in a Musical for “Grace” and “The Color Purple,” a Signature Theatre production. Payton is competing with herself in this category.

Williams and Salter are not done with “Grace.” The co-writers are reviewing their award-winning production for further development. Changes in the production will be tested through work sessions, the first one to occur outside of D.C. in the spring. 

Gratefully, In Demand

Williams is constantly busy. He was the music director of “Let Freedom Ring,” recently performed at the Kennedy Center with Tony and Grammy winner Leslie Odom Jr. During that production, a new composition was composed by Williams, something he has been commissioned to do since 2005. 

How does this “music man” maintain such a rigorous pace? “It’s really about time management,” Williams said. “I always try to maximize time. I am pretty dutiful about going out the door at an event when my time is up.”

Keep track of the next steps for “Grace,” plus other projects from Williams’ company NEWorks Productions by visiting his website

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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1 Comment

  1. BroadwayWorld awards are voted for by the creative teams, cast and theaters. High school and junior high productions usually win due to parents voting in bulk. Unfortunately they are not an indicator of creative worth. The Helen Hayes etc are more connected to industry and audience worth value.

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