|NASHVILLE – Comedy legend and film icon, Jerry Lewis, pulled back the curtain on Wednesday on his theatrical production of “The Nutty Professor” Musical, which has arrived in Nashville for its pre-Broadway World Premiere at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.
The new musical comedy, which Lewis is directing, is based on his 1963 comedy, in which geeky chemistry Professor Julius Kelp concocts a formula to turn himself into the ultimate heartthrob and win the affection of the stunning Stella Purdy. The film achieved international success and was named in the American Film Institute’s “100 Years… 100 Laughs” list of the top 100 comedies of the 20th Century.
“The film that I made in 1963 was so good that I decided to do a Broadway show. And there is no better place to go to find out what you’ve got than Nashville,” Lewis said. “It will be spectacular. After it’s over, give me a call and let me know if everything I said was spot on.”
To make “The Nutty Professor” Musical spectacular, Lewis collaborated with Marvin Hamlisch (A Chorus Line), winner of Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy Awards, and the Pulitzer Prize, for the music and three-time Tony Award winner Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood) for the book and lyrics. The musical hopes to make its Broadway debut next year..
"Music is truly an international language and it has the ability to bring people together like nothing else.... except comedy,” Hamlisch said. “It's a thrill to be working with Jerry Lewis, a true king of comedy, and bringing this classic story to life on Broadway with music."
"Jerry Lewis has been my hero from boyhood, not only as one of the most gifted entertainers of all time but also as one of the grand masters of movie-making,” said Holmes. “To work with Jerry and the vivid cast of characters he created is a privilege and thrill beyond measure.”
“The Nutty Professor” Musical will run in TPAC’s James K. Polk Theater from July 31 to August 19, after a week of preview performances from July 24 to July 29. Preview performances give theatergoers the rare opportunity to help shape a new work, as their energy, reactions, and laughter tell the creative team and cast what to tweak. Tickets prices for this week are also lower.
“All Broadway shows start somewhere, and Nashville is the perfect place for this major event,” said Kathleen O’Brien, President and Chief Executive Officer of TPAC. “We’re excited to provide audiences the special treat of being part of the creation of a Broadway musical before it premieres in New York. As the production evolves, audiences may see small changes in the show between the first week and the last week.”
“It is a privilege to welcome the legendary Jerry Lewis and his impressive creative team to Nashville, and we are looking forward to seeing this new musical production of ‘The Nutty Professor’ unveiled here at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center this summer,” said Nashville Mayor Karl Dean. “A world premiere event of this magnitude is not only a treat for theatergoers but an affirmation of Music City’s well-deserved reputation as a leader in the creative arts. We wish Jerry and the production the best of luck as they prepare the show for Broadway, and hope they enjoy their stay.”
Actor, singer, and entertainer Michael Andrew will star in this new production as Professor Julius Kelp. Andrew, who counts Lewis and the film as principal influences on his career, worked with Executive Producer Ned McLeod and Lewis to bring the production to the stage. Mac Pirkle, co-founder and former Artistic Director for Tennessee Repertory Theater, is also producing.
In addition to McLeod and Pirkle, there are several Nashville-connected talents featured in the musical. Stephen Kummer (conductor), and all but one of the musicians in the show’s orchestra are from Nashville. JoAnn Hunter (choreographer), Ray Roderick (assistant director) Ray Roderick, and three of the musical’s ensemble have professional and personal connections to the city. Significant portions of the scenery, properties, wardrobe, and make-up work also are being created in Nashville.
Tickets for “The Nutty Professor” Musical are on sale now and available at tpac.org, by calling 615-782-4040, or visiting the TPAC Box Office at 505 Deaderick Street in Nashville. For group tickets, call the TPAC Group Sales Office at 615-782-4060.