Fitzgerald, Leavel, Cariani, Dratch, Wendt Signed for Minsky's World Premiere

By Kenneth Jones
December 4, 2008

Tony Award nominee Christopher Fitzgerald, the original Igor of Young Frankenstein, will play the title role in the world premiere of the burlesque-rich musical Minsky's, in Los Angeles.



Casting is complete and rehearsals have begun for the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre staging of the new show by Tony winner Bob Martin (book), Susan Birkenhead (lyrics) and three-time Tony winner Charles Strouse (music). Previews begin Jan. 21, 2009, toward a Feb. 6 opening.

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. This project is not based on the film "The Night They Raided Minsky's," though Birkenhead and Strouse had long been developing that as a musical.

Performances in L.A. play to March 1, 2009.

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."

Announced Dec. 4, 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 will feature 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 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 www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.