Lucky Guy, a Musical With a Nashville Twang, Opens in NYC; Leslie Jordan and Varla Jean Merman Star
By Kenneth Jones
Lucky Guy, the country-fried musical comedy about a singer who dreams of Nashville stardom, opens May 19 at Off-Broadway's Little Shubert Theatre following previews from April 28. Kyle Dean Massey plays crooner Billy Ray, with Leslie Jordan and Varla Jean Merman as his obstacles.
The musical comedy written and directed by Willard Beckham plays a limited run through July 24.
Here's how producers characterize the show: "Welcome to Nashville — a town full of colorful characters all chasing after the very same dream: a smash hit record. To beat the odds and strike gold (or, better yet, platinum), it takes one great song, serious talent, or lots of luck — and preferably all three. Featuring an array of musical styles with salutes to Country, Broadway, Vaudeville, Bluegrass, Pop, and even Hawaiian, Lucky Guy weaves a tale of down-home dreamers and low-down schemers all willing to do whatever it takes to come out on top in the cut-throat world of Music City, USA."
Lucky Guy stars Emmy Award winner Jordan ("Will & Grace," My Trip Down the Pink Carpet), Merman (aka Jeffery Roberson) (Chicago, "Ugly Betty"), Massey (Next To Normal, Wicked), Jenn Colella (Urban Cowboy, High Fidelity), Jim Newman (Curtains, Steel Pier) and Savannah Wise (Rock of Ages, Ragtime) as Billy Ray's love interest.
The show features a quartet billed as "The Buckaroos," made up of Callan Bergmann, Xavier Cano, Wes Hart and Joshua Woodie.
The musical had a developmental run (with a different cast) produced by Goodspeed Musicals at The Norma Terris Theatre in Connectict in spring 2009. The Goodspeed staging included revisions made since earlier unrelated regional productions of the show.
Writer Beckham, a native of Hominy, OK, is a graduate of The Cleveland Institute of Music. He made his debut as a composer-lyricist at Carnegie Hall and was commissioned to write the first musical comedy ever produced in Korea, Magic in the Mirror, directed by Baayork Lee. As a performer, Beckham toured with the first and second national companies of No, No, Nanette. On Broadway, he originated the roles of Geoffrey in Something's Afoot and Richard Tidewell in The Utter Glory of Morrisey Hall. Lucky Guy earned him an ASCAP Special Award for Musical Theatre.
Of the earlier Goodspeed run in Chester, CT, where critics stayed away due to the developmental nature of the engagement, writer Beckham told Playbill.com, "We had such an incredible cast there and with that level of talent it enabled me to have the chance to make major changes in the scenes and the score and try them on for size in a safe environment. By the end of our run there, I learned just what I liked and did not like — what worked and what didn't work — thanks to this sort of experimentation. I really went out on a limb in a few instances. At one point I had to rewrite an entire number at the top of the show literally overnight and it was onstage the next day."
What sort of exposure to musical theatre did a kid from Oklahoma get?
Beckham explained, "When I was a boy growing up in the small town of Hominy, I listened exclusively to opera and Broadway recordings at home but never country. Country was what was being played on all the jukeboxes in every cafe or diner and on almost every radio station back then. You couldn't get away from it. It was not until I started writing and lived here in New York City that I came to appreciate country and now just love it. It was, I guess you could say, an acquired taste for me. Thank goodness for changing taste buds."
Beckham said that the musical "role models" for Lucky Guy were many. "Thanks to all those Broadway show albums I listened to, I have tried to pay homage to some of the shows that influenced me the most," he said. "Hello, Dolly! was my all-time favorite as a boy and No, No, Nanette was the show that got me my Equity card. And of course, there was Annie and Something's Afoot, both of which were terrific shows for the entire family."
The Lucky Guy creative team includes Rob Bissinger (set design), Paul Miller (lighting design), William Ivey Long (costume design), Kurt Fischer (sound design), Todd Ellison (orchestrations and musical supervision) and A.C. Ciulla (choreography).
Tickets are $44-$86.50 (premium seating will also be available) and are now on sale through TeleCharge.com or at (212) 239-6200 and at The Little Shubert Theatre box office (422 W. 42nd Street — between 9th and Dyer Avenues) Monday-Saturday from noon to 6 PM.
Visit Lucky Guy online at www.luckyguythemusical.com.
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