The Nutty Professor’ first run is Nashville hit

The 32 performances had an attendance of more than 16,000, and ticketholders came from 36 states outside of Tennessee in addition to Washington D.C., Canada and Germany.

Kathleen O’Brien, executive Director of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, congratulates Jerry Lewis and the ‘Nutty Professor’ cast on opening night, July 31, at TPAC. The musical, which received national media attention, finished its run on Aug. 19. / Karan Simpson

The show, sponsored by The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank, received national media attention and had an estimated economic impact of $1.6 million on the city, according to internal production estimates and calculations from Americans for the Arts released to The Tennessean on Tuesday.

Every time I would come to the rehearsal hall, my batteries, my energy level, the spring in my step were totally restored, no matter how difficult the day might be,” McLeod says. “That was new for me. I enjoyed it so much that I often overstayed my visits…. It was a little bit magical.”

The effort was eight years in the planning, partly due to the schedules of the high-caliber players involved. Tony and Emmy Award-winner Rupert Holmes wrote the musical’s book and lyrics, with music by the late Oscar, Grammy, Emmy, Tony, Golden Globe and Pulitzer Prize-winning legend Marvin Hamlisch.

Holmes, who worked with Hamlisch on the piece for more than five years, admits he would be inextricably linked to the project no matter what had happened to Hamlisch, who died suddenly Aug. 6, the week after opening night in Nashville.

But now I have to work for its future twice as hard,” he says. “I have to do it for him as much as for myself. I love the show, and I’m very proud of it. I also enjoyed the way the audience enjoyed it.”

Holmes felt there was a “genuine appreciation” for the show’s gentility, as well as its sweet message of being comfortable in one’s own skin.

I felt really good being able to bring onstage such a positive and reassuring message to people,” he says. “It was Jerry’s message, but I was blessed that Marvin and I were able to give it more voice.…”

Nashville producer Mac Pirkle admits amazement at how often he heard local audience members talk about their pride in the show and the excitement of being in on such a work from the beginning.

Some were admittedly fans of Lewis or the original film. But it also speaks to growth in the area’s creation and presentation of new artistic works, sharing kinship with Nashville’s songwriting heritage.

But “Nutty,” says Pirkle, whose own roots in the Nashville theater community run deep, put the city on the map in a new way.

People were saying, ‘What? They’re doing that in Nashville?’… The door is now open for discussion. We didn’t just talk about doing it. We did it. It happened. It was great, and now people know that it can happen.”

The piece drew numerous visits from Broadway theater groups and producers, “and they loved the theater, they loved the audience, and they thought it was an interesting model,” Pirkle says.

Holmes, who begins rehearsals this week for a Broadway revival of his musical “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” says “Nutty” has “every ability” to move forward, though he’d personally like to see it in another venue before it heads for Broadway.

Holmes wants people outside of the city to hear Hamlisch’s “endearing, beautiful score,” he says, but he will recall his days in Nashville fondly — including the gracious audiences, the skill of the artists, the hospitality of TPAC, and the first-ever time he heard macaroni and cheese described as a vegetable.

Visit Nutty Professor The Musical — website

This was not just old hat to this community,” adds McLeod, a Nashville native. “Not the way it might be to others that are used to having shows developed there. … The people that came to work with us, support us, or be involved in some way brought new energy and enthusiasm that’s really appreciated—and vital to moving this forward.”

Written by Fiona Soltes  For The Tennessean  Sept. 5, 2012

 

Source: The Tennessean


 

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