The Origins of 'Dorian - The Musical'

We all know the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." But after sitting down and speaking with the creative team behind the new stage musical, "Dorian," which is making its West Coast debut at the NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood, I think the same saying could be used to describe the creation of a musical. It certainly takes a village, and perhaps even more.

The creative team of "Dorian," which consists of James James J. Mellon (co-book writer, co-composer, co-lyricist), Scott DeTurk (co-composer, co-lyricist) and Duane Poole (co-book writer) are certainly an energetic bunch. Even though they had been open less than a week, and were about to start a rehearsal where they were going to implement some slight changes to the piece, they were all anxious to talk about how they came to finally present their production in Los Angeles, almost 10 years after James Mellon first began adapting the famous Oscar Wilde novel, "The Portrait of Dorian Gray."

James Mellon credits his Aunt with giving him the inspiration to adapt the famed novel. He offered to stay home with her one night to keep her company, and she had rented the film, "The Picture of Dorian Gray." As the end credits rolled she exclaimed, "Now that's a musical." James, always a fan of the book, agreed and began writing the show.

James, however, was no stranger to the world of musical theatre, having been Riff in the Broadway production of "West Side Story," as well as having worked for some of Broadway's greatest directors, from Jerome Robbins to Michael Bennet, Hal Prince to George Abbott. So in 1995, after working with another collaborator, James presented a workshop of "Dorian" in New York City, where he invited friends and colleagues to hear his work.

Stephen Schwartz was in attendance, and after hearing the piece pulled James aside and told him, "You've got two great songs, but" - and it was big but - "throw everything else out." 

Those two songs, which are still in the show today, were enough of a driving force for James to continue working on the show. But when he moved to Los Angeles, he put the piece aside until he met fellow composer DeTurk, who listened to the piece and told him, "You're crazy if you don't do something with this." 

But back then, the show was completely different than the self-described Rashomon- type story as it appears on stage today. It was a completely different show, recalls Mellon, more of a "musical comedy."

So DeTurk came aboard and began to write with Mellon. Despite sometimes being on opposite coasts, the two would work on songs, and sometimes when apart, without knowing it, would compose essentially the same song. Mellon recalls a time when he called DeTurk saying, "I have a song," and DeTurk would say the same thing. They would both play what they had written for each other, and "it was the same, except for a few notes." 


After preparing another version of the show for a 2001 reading in New York, it wasn't until after a few days into rehearsals that they realized that the show needed a rewrite. "It didn't flow . . . the characters weren't flushed out," they recalled. And it was then that they decided to shift the show's locale to New Orleans. This change in location gave them a great many creative possibilities, that were flushed out when Duane Poole, a successful M.O.W. writer (but lover of musicals) joined the team, and did a complete rewrite of the book.

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Timothy Kuryak After starting at the bottom, fetching coffee for some of theatre's most powerful producers of the great white way, and making his way up to Assistant Director of one of Broadway's longest-running musicals, Timothy headed west to try his luck in television. He then spent a few years in syndicated television, interviewing celebrities and producing segments featuring musicals coming through town, before directing the first season of "Big Brother" for CBS, and then focused his attention at two cable network start-ups. He then segued to international TV production for FOX, where he oversaw the international production of such formats as "Beauty & the Geek," "The Simple Life," and "Temptation Island" among others. In 2008, he was instrumental in the start-up and launch of Discovery Communications' PLANET GREEN network before segueing to OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network where he was VP, Programming. Most recently he served as VP of Production & Development (West Coast) for TLC, overseeing such shows as the "Say Yes to Dress" franchise, "Little People, Big World," "Who Do You Think You Are?" and "My 600lb Life" to name a few. Currently, he is the Executive Producer of "Who Do You Think You Are?" with Season 5 premiering this summer on TLC.

They say there is no culture in LA (well aside from what's in yogurt), but he is here to prove that axiom wrong. Anxious to begin covering the state of theatre here in the Southland (that's what the local news likes to call Southern California), neither earthquakes, fires, mudslides, nor high-speed freeway chases will keep him from his appointed rounds of giving you the scoop on the Left Coast theatre happenings!

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