Fitzgerald, Leavel, Wendt, Dratch Star in Premiere of Minsky's Musical in L.A.

Ahmanson Theatre, known for class acts over the years, gets naughty and bawdy on Jan. 21 with the first preview of the world premiere of Minsky's, the new musical comedy about the king of burlesque.

Minsky's team Susan Birkenhead, Charles Strouse, Bob Martin and Casey Nicholaw
Minsky's team Susan Birkenhead, Charles Strouse, Bob Martin and Casey Nicholaw (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Tony Award nominee Christopher Fitzgerald, the original Igor of Young Frankenstein, plays the title role, the proprietor of the famed Manhattan burlesque palace(s) where Gypsy Rose Lee and others tantalized crowds, and where comics told off-color jokes between strip teases. The content of the Jazz Age and Depression-era shows often prompted the cops to raid the theatres.

This new, original musical is not based on the film "The Night They Raided Minsky's," though the project began that way years ago. The libretto is by Tony Award winner Bob Martin (co-author of The Drowsy Chaperone), and songs are by Tony-winning composer Charles Strouse and lyricist Susan Birkenhead.

The Broadway-aimed production produced by Center Theatre Group officially opens in Los Angeles on Feb. 6, and continues to March 1.

The varied cast, under the direction of Tony nominee Casey Nicholaw ( Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone), includes performers from stage and screen. Rachel Dratch of "Saturday Light Live" and George Wendt of "Cheers" and Hairspray, plus Tony Award winner Beth Leavel, the original Drowsy Chaperone herself, are among players.

Strouse and Birkenhead worked on a stage musical version of the film comedy "The Night They Raided Minsky's," but the nature of the project evolved once Martin and Nicholaw came aboard. *

Minsky's is billed as "a big, racy, romantic musical comedy set in Depression Era New York City. The king of burlesque himself, Billy Minsky ( Christopher Fitzgerald), reigns over the rollicking backstage world of Minsky's, where profit margins are as skimpy as the costumes. Billy knows that to keep the customers coming you have to give them legs, laughs and spectacle that pushes the limits, but even he's not prepared for the day he falls in love and the cops come banging on his door. This original musical brings back a golden era of theatre when audiences came to the theatre to laugh at the jokes, ogle the dancers and escape reality for a little while."

Minsky's stars Angie Schworer and Christopher Fitzgerald
photo by Joan Marcus

Billy Minsky and his brothers Abe and Morton operated a number of burlesque theatres in Manhattan, most notably a flagship house on Houston. The Minsky's cast features Christopher Fitzgerald (Billy Minsky), Katharine Leonard (Minsky's love interest Mary), Rachel Dratch, George Wendt, Tony winner Beth Leavel, Tony nominee John Cariani ( Almost, Maine, Fiddler on the Roof), Gerry Vichi ( The Drowsy Chaperone, Curtains), Kevin Cahoon ( Chitty Bang Bang, Hedwig) and Paul Vogt. Ensemble members include Megan Nicole Arnoldy, Nathan Balser, Roxane Barlow, Jennifer Bowles, Kirsten Bracken, Jennifer Frankel, Linda Griffin, Blake Hammond, Philip Hoffman, Stacey Todd Holt, Marc Kessler, Sabra Lewis, Matt Loehr, Ariel Reid, Jeffrey Schecter, Angie Schworer, Sarrah Strimel, Charlie Sutton, Jennifer Werner and Patrick Wetzel.

Strouse is known for Bye Bye Birdie, Annie and Applause, and Birkenhead penned lyrics for Jelly's Last Jam and Triumph of Love.

Minsky's is Center Theatre Group's second collaboration with writer Bob Martin and director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw, who created The Drowsy Chaperone.

Presented by special arrangement with commercial producers Bob Boyett and Kevin McCollum, Minsky's features scenic design by Anna Louizos, costume design by Gregg Barnes, lighting design by Ken Billington, sound design by Acme Sound Partners and hair design by Josh Marquette.

The musical direction and vocal arrangements are by Phil Reno; orchestrations are by Doug Besterman; and music arrangements are by Glen Kelly. The technical supervisor is Peter Fulbright, and the production stage manager is Karen Moore.

Tickets for Minsky's start at $20 and are available by calling (213) 628-2772 or online at

Kevin Cahoon, Beth Leavel, Kirsten Bracken and Gerry Vichy in rehearsal
Kevin Cahoon, Beth Leavel, Kirsten Bracken and Gerry Vichy in rehearsal (Photo by Joan Marcus)