Versatile director leads the way

They say if you want a job done right, give it to a busy person. Well, Tim Nelson's one of the busiest, and he's been getting it done right for the past 30 years.

At the moment, Nelson — whose many titles include director and musical director of the Academy for the Performing Arts at Huntington Beach High School — is involved in a production of Lerner and Loewe's "Brigadoon." Involved, that is, to the point of directing, musical directing and playing the leading role once taken by Gene Kelly on the silver screen.

The show opens July 16 for two weekends at Westminster's Rose Center Theater, but before that curtain rises, Nelson will take 10 of the show's core cast members to New York state to join a chorus of performers he cast a few weeks ago.

"The show will play at Fort Salem (near Albany) over the July 4 weekend, then we come back here and join the chorus and specialty characters here in California for 10 days before we open at the Rose," Nelson explained.

Nelson and his Huntington Beach academy students recently finished another active school year, winning best show of the year for "Singin' in the Rain" at Fullerton Civic Light Opera's John Raitt Awards for Youth.

One of his prize students, Kyle Selig, won the best actor of the year award from Music Theatre West in Long Beach. He and Nelson will be in New York next week as Selig competes for top honors in the National High School Musical Theater Awards.

It has, as Nelson admits, been quite a year. A few weeks ago, his students won "most extraordinaire show" at the MACY Awards, Selig was named best vocalist and Jake Gonzalez won best supporting actor for "Titanic."

"I'm very proud of my students," Nelson proclaimed. "They are going to some major universities."

When the "Brigadoon" troupe returns from its "tryout" in New York, local audiences will see Nelson and his wife, Mary Murphy-Nelson, perform in "Brigadoon," even though they're not paired. Nelson will be romancing Melissa Cook, owner of the Curtain Call Dinner Theater, while Murphy teams with Vincent Aniceto, who just finished playing the title role in "The King and I."

For Nelson, it's a 30th-anniversary show. He started performing in local theater back in 1980 and has worked for virtually all of the professional and community playhouses in the area since.

He played opposite Broadway star Susan Egan in "42nd Street" and has worked with some major performers over the last three decades. Among them are Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows, Rose Marie (who became a close friend), Jeff Goldblum, Adrienne Barbeau, Victor Garber, Amanda Peet, Raquel Welch and Nia Vardalos.

Nelson started his stint at the academy in 1999 and has intertwined that assignment with teaching and directing work at other venues, including the Rose Center Theater, the Orange County High School of the Arts, the Curtain Call Dinner Theater (since 1985), the Westminster School District, the Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater in Claremont and his two New York venues in Albany and Salem.

"I ran the Park Playhouse in Albany's Washington Park for 12 years and bought a house out there in the country by Salem, so now I work there whenever I can," he said.

Bicoastal and multi-talented, Nelson has spent the past three decades entertaining musical theater afficionados (picking up a Daily Pilot man of the year in theater award along the way). And, at the Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts, he's turning out new musical theater performers by the dozens.

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