PHOTOS FOR ARTSNASH BY RICK MALKIN
What follows are photographs taken last Wednesday during the media day for The Nutty Professor at Tennessee Performing Arts Center. There are also some quote excerpts collected that day during and after a press conference, a rehearsal and (in the case of composer Marvin Hamlisch) by phone interview with ArtsNash. Previews of the new musical – based on Jerry Lewis’ beloved 1963 film of the same name with music by Hamlisch and book and lyrics by Rupert Holmes – begin July 24 in TPAC’s Polk Theater. Opening night of this world premiere show is July 31; the pre-Broadway run concludes Aug. 19. Go to www.nuttyprofessormusical.com for more information and tickets.
AT AFTERNOON REHEARSAL…
Director Jerry Lewis talks to his leads: Marissa McGowan (Stella Purdy) and Michael Andrew (Professor Julius Kelp/Buddy Love).
SOME THOUGHTS ON THE MUSIC FROM COMPOSER MARVIN HAMLISCH (A Chorus Line; Tony, Grammy, Oscar, Emmy and Pulitzer Prize winner): “The most important thing in the score was trying to make it into a show. Early on, it was ‘What’s movie, what’s show?’ I remember saying to Jerry early on, ‘You can’t hand me a movie script and think we can make a musical out of that script. What you need is a writer, a professional book writer who knows how to adapt a movie into a musical play.’ And that requires a lot. I think by getting (book writer and lyricist) Rupert (Holmes) they really achieved that.”
“Rupert and I tended to work somewhat separately, mostly on the phone, and then when we got together, we tried to give each of these characters, even Buddy Love, three dimensions. We worked to figure these people out, and leave enough Buddy in Kelp, and enough Kelp in Buddy. And I think that was the trick to this thing.”
“It appealed to me for a lot of reasons. I liked the idea that you’ve finally got to be happy with who you are, and that you’ve got to try to make yourself the best you can be without making a deal with the devil. I think that’s the key. I think once Julius realizes he’s Kelp, no matter how many (potions) he takes, that there’s a good guy named Kelp and he’s got to find happiness in that. I think that’s what (Stella) is feeling all the time, even when she’s being seduced by Buddy Love, she’s still feeling that ‘Kelpness’ in him.”
AND NOW BACK TO REHEARSAL…
Buddy Love is one cool cat!
EARLIER THAT DAY AT THE PRESS CONFERENCE…
Lewis: “Nashville happens to be a hotbed of theater. What I mean by that is you’re going to an audience that’s accustomed to going and they have seen it all. …The very sound of Nashville is theatrical, and it’s a good place to be.”
Lewis: “(For) the spine of the show we’ve taken the spine of the film to present that on the stage live. …This is not just a show. To all of us it’s the life of a human being, and we are allowing him to show us what he wants to do for the world.”
Rupert Holmes, Book and Lyrics (Tony winner for The Mystery of Edwin Drood): “I think musically there are some moments that are vintage Marvin Hamlisch, and that’s good news for everyone who’s going to hear this. There are some ballads in here that remind you of absolutely classic Marvin Hamlisch; they’re really beautiful. A lot of the music is charmed music, it’s character music, and in that regard I would say that is within what you would think of as a traditional Broadway show. We have a couple of rock elements, because this was the Sixties and The Ventures were at the top of the charts – this is just pre-Beatles. And of course, on the other side of it, with Buddy Love beautifully voiced by Michael, you have that swing band sound, and I think Mel Torme is a good analogy. …So, it’s traditional Broadway with a lot of character work and some contemporary – meaning 1962 – tinges.”
Roderick: “I work for Jerry Lewis, that’s my role and my great honor. …And he called me his First AD (assistant director), which is a film term, and I love it, because it’s very different than in the theater. As a First AD, you get to do stuff. He may say, ‘I want this done, and I want that done.’ It may not be the central creative focus, but it’s stuff that has to get done so that the project happens. It’s been awesome. He’s just said, ‘Go and do that First AD thing.’ So I think of myself as the First AD.”
Nashville Production Producer Mac Pirkle: “There’s a lot of visceral excitement about something like this coming together. As I said down in rehearsal one day, ‘None of this has actually happened before. There is no blueprint.’ In a new musical, literally every day is a little bit different because you have yesterday to reflect on and tomorrow to look forward to. It’s a process of constant adjustment on everything we’re doing.”
Hunter: “…I went back and revisited the movie, which I hadn’t seen since I was a little girl. What I said to Jerry…was that the movie was so theatrical…and so vibrant, literally and figuratively. And I felt this could make a great musical. I was then handed about five pieces of music by Marvin and Rupert. …What I loved about this music and lyrics…was that it was sexy. …When I create movement, I take the decade and the style of the piece we’re in, but I never try to literally live there. I want the period to influence my movement but I’m still going for something that’s a little more well-rounded or now, today.”
Andrew: “I can’t compare him to either one (Julius Kelp or Buddy Love) because he’s an original. It’s truly Jerry Lewis, the one and only. We really approach those characters as separate entities from ourselves because that’s really the only way you can approach them. …This experience for me, as you can imagine, over the past seven years has exceeded my dream that I had when I was a little boy of playing these characters. And I’ve had several moments including the last five minutes or so (of this press conference) that have felt like an out-of-body experience. To say ‘Pinch me’ is an understatement.”
McGowan: “Stella is a very progressive young woman for 1962, and it’s an absolute joy to play such a well-rounded character. Along the lines of what Rupert was saying, because of the musical we get to know Stella better, what she dreams of, what she wants, and it’s just thrilling for me to create this character. She’s very ambitious, and she sees things in a very different way I think than a lot of young women in 1962 did. She’s…forging ahead, and she wants an education. She’s driven, and she loves academics, and it’s just interesting to develop the relationship between her and Julius, and then her and Buddy Love. She’s falling in love with this guy who has a cool exterior, but it’s not that she falls in love with, it’s the inside. It’s such a beautiful message also, and a fantastic character. I feel very blessed to create this and discover how good she is.”
Recent Belmont University grad and Kimberly/Dot/ensemble member Meghan Glogower: “This is an absolute dream of mine. …I never thought I might come this close to it this soon. You think you have to move to New York and slave away for years and years and not get any work, but the fact that I can almost reach out and touch that dream now is incredible. It’s surreal.”
Franklin, Tenn., native and swing Allison Little: “It’s been a childhood dream of mine to be on Broadway, and even before that to perform at TPAC. I was very lucky to come through here with the national tour of Cats a few years ago and perform at TPAC. To be here again with a brand new show and original cast…is literally a dream come true, and I hope and pray it will be received well, with open arms, and that we’ll be on that Broadway stage soon.”
A PEEK AT THE SET…
TPAC President and CEO Kathleen O’ Brien: “It’s like pinching yourself. This is all the months of work, of planning and discussions about how we’re going to make this happen, what will it take to make this happen, and is it going to happen? And the answer is yes, it’s happening. It’s magical.”
AND SO IT’S TIME TO SAY GOODBYE UNTIL THE 24TH…