Jerry Lewis’ ‘Nutty Professor’ musical opens in Nashville

Jerry Lewis in 2010.
Jerry Lewis in 2010.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Jerry Lewis officially unveiled his new stage-musical version of “The Nutty Professor” this week in Nashville. The brief engagement, which runs through Aug. 19, is an out-of-town tryout in anticipation of a hoped-for transfer to Broadway.

Lewis, who is 86, serves as director for the musical, which is based on his classic 1963 movie of the same name. The production features some impressive writing talent in the form of composer Marvin Hamlisch and book writer and lyricist Rupert Holmes.

Michael Andrew plays the role of Professor Julius Kelp, a socially awkward scientist who creates a way to transform himself into the smooth-talking Buddy Love. The cast also includes Marissa McGowan as Kelp’s primary love interest.

The performances at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center have been surrounded by some secrecy. Previews were by invitation only and photographs of the production were scarce to non-existent. Since opening, the musical has earned some strong notices, especially for the work of choreographer JoAnn M. Hunter and actress Klea Blackhurst, who plays the professor’s secretary.


A reviewer for The Tennessean described the show as “charming” and said the show’s Broadway prospects look strong. The dance numbers created by Hunter are “dazzling” and offer a “nice balance between retro dance moves and more artistic influences.”

Blackhurst “nearly steals the show” as Miss Lemon, the professor’s long-suffering secretary.

A review that ran on the site singled out the choreography is the “most noteworthy” aspect of the musical. The choreography “intelligently focuses on the dance moves of the early ‘60s that give the show its palpably sexy tone.”

No Broadway dates have been announced for “The Nutty Professor.”


Jerry Lewis to premiere ‘Nutty Professor’ musical in Nashville

Jerry Lewis, Marvin Hamlisch taking ‘Nutty Professor’ to Broadway