Getting To Know Singing Sensation Shannon Forsell

Over the past decade, the Indianapolis arts community has grown by leaps and bounds. This growth is due in large part to the emergence and support of both local Indianapolis artists, and world-class talent bringing their shows to the Circle City. While there are many people who are responsible for either bringing this talent to Indy or offering their own artistic abilities, few manage to do both. Enter stage right, Shannon Forsell.

Shannon Forsell is not only a skilled singer in disciplines as diverse as jazz standards, Broadway, torch songs and other popular music, but she is also the managing director of the American Cabaret Theatre‘s latest incarnation– The Cabaret at the Connoisseur Room. All though it is more than a full-time job for Shannon to book acts and operate the daily business of the Cabaret, she still has the energy to delight audiences from time to time with her vocal stylings.

Born and raised in Indianapolis, Shannon did not start performing on stage until her days at Noblesville High School. After graduating, Forsell attended DePauw University where she majored in Voice and Communications.

In a business where timing is everything, Shannon relishes the fact that her career started to flourish just as the Indianapolis arts scene itself was taking off; “I remember when people used to call us India-no-place,” said Forsell. “Now it seems as if everywhere you turn there is a new gallery opening or national tour coming through town, it’s so great.”

Her first local gig came in 1990 when she auditioned and landed a role in one of the ACT’s(American Cabaret Theatre) productions, back when the company used to be located in the Athenaeum Building in downtown Indianapolis. She had so much fun that she decided to stick around and do a few more shows–about ten years worth to be precise. In the decade that followed that first appearance, Shannon took part in almost every production presented to the public at the ACT. This included such roles as Eve Peron in Evita and Sally Bowles in Cabaret.

It was during this time that the Claude McNeal, founder of the American Cabaret Theatre, broadened Shannon Forsell’s horizons. “I was trained classically at Depauw, but it was Claude that taught me my love of the cabaret.” With her new love as a companion, it was time for Shannon to take her show on the road.

As if running the Cabaret at the Connoisseur Room was not enough, Shannon also performs regularly with Cool City Band as seen above in this video.  If you couldn’t tell, Shannon is the one in the dress


She performed everywhere from smokey little jazz joints and locals only hot-spots, to the big stage in New York City’s National Arts Club and the MCI Center in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. Along the road she was privileged to take part is such historical events as the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Concert, which was held on the one year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

With her resume now reading as if she copied it straight from the pages of a “How to be a Successful Singer” book, she returned to Indiana and the city of her childhood. Still inspired by her love of the cabaret, Shannon returned to the ACT to help line up a series of shows in this discipline. While things were going well for Shannon, the same could not be said for the theatre itself.

The result was a shift in focus and venue that saw the ACT move from the only home it had every known, to a smaller more intimate location on East Ohio Street. No longer would the American Cabaret put on full-scale productions, instead they have chosen to introduce Indianapolis to the personal experience only the cabaret can offer.

As for Shannon, she was named the managing director of the new ACT entity and, while she had spent most of her life on the stage, she quickly took to running one instead. When asked if she prefers her new role as full-time manager and part-time performer Shannon responded, “the mix of the two is perfect, it’s the best of both worlds. I love to perform but it no longer singularly defines who I am.” Would you expect anything less from a woman who has spent her life wearing so many different hats?

If one is not familiar with Shannon’s new digs over at the Connoisseur Room she described it beautifully when she said, “it’s swanky yet unpretentious, the new space reminds me of a Cole Porter era cabaret. The dark wood and plush velvet seating makes it very intimate yet very accessible.”

As for what her favorite part of the new job Shannon quickly responded, “the performances themselves and the reaction of the audience. It is always amazing to see the connection the crowd has with a performer when they are standing only 10 feet away.”

It is one thing to possess the ability to sing, it is an entirely different gift to be able to entertain. To see what the perfect marriage of the two looks like in the flesh, be sure to catch Shannon and all the acts taking center stage at the new Cabaret at the Connoisseur Room.

For more information about the Cabaret’s show this weekend, which stars Shannon Forsell, or the rest of this season’s performances, visit the Cabaret at the Connoisseur Room’s website.

To learn even more about the career and music of Shannon Forsell check out her own personal website here.