Tonight's the night: The brain trust behind The Nutty Professor, The New Musical will officially roll out the red carpet for the new musical's opening night at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center's James K. Polk Theatre. Directed by "the king of comedy" himself, Jerry Lewis, upon whose classic 1963 film comedy the brand new musical is based upon, The Nutty Professor company has already delivered a week of preview performances, garnering rave reviews from audience members.
Now it's time to unveil the musical-which features music and lyrics by Marvin Hamlisch and a book by Rupert Holmes-the production features choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter, set design by David Gallo and costume design by Ann Hould Ward. Such a sterling pedigree clearly presages a visually stunning production: Gallo is a Tony Award winner for his set design for The Drowsy Chaperone and Ward won the Tony for her iconic costumes for Disney's Beauty and The Beast. Hunter, whose first professional job was at Nashville's late and lamented Opryland USA, was most recently represented on Broadway in the recent Harry Connick Jr.-led revival of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.
And with Hamlisch and Holmes on-board, the music and the script are in capable hands. Hamlisch, who won the Pulitzer Prize for A Chorus Line, has a Tony, an Emmy, an Oscar and a Grammy tucked away on shelves in his home, while Holmes is a three-time Tony Award winner (and his The Mystery of Edwin Drood will be revived on Broadway later this year).
Leading man Michael Andrew (who will play Professor Julius Kelp and Buddy Love) has been attached to the project for several years now, and the cast also includes KLea Blackhurst as Miss Lemon; Tony nominee Mark Jacoby as Dr. Warfield; Marissa McGowan (most recently seen on Broadway in Bonnie and Clyde, A Little Night Music and Les Miserables) as Stella Purdy; and Jamie Ross as Harrington Winslow. Comprising the ensemble will be Alex David, Meghan Glogower (a recent graduate of the Belmont University Musical Theatre program), Blair Goldberg, Autumn Guzzardi (the Atlanta native now makes her home in Nashville), Sarah Marie Jenkins, Allison Little (who grew up in Franklin), Charles MacEachern, Lindsay Moore, Ronnie Nelson, Patrick O'Neill, Dominique Plaisant, Carly Blake Sebouhian, Jason Sparks, Christopher Spaulding, Kristopher Thompson-Bolden, Kyle Vaughn and Ryan Worsing.
With such an amalgam of talents assembled to bring The Nutty Professor to life, why in the world is the company in Music City USA? Showing off his trademark wit while greeting guests in the Polk Theatre lobby, Lewis said the company is in Nashville "because nobody else would take us," eliciting hearty laughter and setting the tone for the remarkably serious, even if a bit free-wheeling, press conference that followed. The Nashville run is the precursor of the show's planned Broadway opening in the early part of 2013.