Get A Taste Of: J. Adam Shelton


J. Adam Shelton makes his MPT debut as Sweeney Todd's extravagant rival barber Adolfo Pirelli.  Keep reading to learn more about his favorite theatrical works, who inspires him, and how he is able to multitask during rehearsals.

Have you done a show with Middleton Players before?

I have not.  I’m really glad the stars have aligned for me to be a part of this season.  My schedule sometimes books 6 to 9 months in advance, which doesn’t always allow me to collaborate with some organizations.  However, it emphasizes what I love about this business: things happen when they’re supposed to and usually for the absolute best!

What do you do when you’re not performing/working in the theatre? Do you have a daytime job?

I am associate lecturer of voice at UW-Whitewater and also own a private studio here on Madison’s west side.  Among previous daytime jobs:  Starbucks shift leader, Olive Garden waiter, dog sitter, pizza guy, and public radio announcer.

What was your first stage show and who did you play?

My first real musical theatre role was playing the title character in Lil’Abner.  I have to laugh about it in retrospect ‘cause my body type hasn’t changed much in 20 years...  sure I’ve been thinner and bigger, but I’ve never looked particularly toned like Abner should look. 

What is your favorite theatre memory?

My favorite memories revolve around the feeling of community in theatre and music.  I enjoy sharing a laugh with folks, and we’re all working towards a common goal despite being a soloist or a member of the ensemble.  To borrow from Into the Woods, “No one is alone...” especially when they’re in theatre. 

Who is your greatest musical theatre inspiration and why?

Choosing one is difficult, I respect so many and feel inspired by them, but my initial reactions are:  Mandy Patinkin, Patty Lupone, Elaine Stritch, Jeremy Jordan, and Titus Burgess.  ALL of them are trained singers, actors, dancers, and interpret everything that they do to the fullest every time they touch the stage. 

What is your favorite theatrical work (play, musical, opera, etc.)?

Play:  The Crucible
Musical:  The Most Happy Fella or Company
Opera:  Tosca

What do you enjoy about your character Pirelli? In what ways are you similar or dissimilar to your character?

Pirelli has a flare for the dramatic, and so do I!  ‘Nuff said.

What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

I enjoy experimenting and the process of developing comedy.  The evolution of a joke/gag on stage really intrigues me and jives with my musical side.  Just like music, it’s all about timing and once everyone gets the timing it’s like performing a great symphony. 

What are people going to think about as they drive home from the show?

We’ll learn a lot about people by their reactions to the show, but the scariest will be those that crave meat pies afterwards…

Give us a fun fact about yourself—do you have any special/hidden talents?

I knit- especially during my downtime during a show/rehearsal.  I once knit a scarf during a Messiah rehearsal WHILE singing my solo. 

Where can people go to learn more about you and your projects?

You can add me on Facebook – J. Adam Shelton – or keep your eyes on my studio website –!