BWW Interviews: 'Nashville's Own' Drummer Danny Young Takes on THE NUTTY FIVE

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As the clock clicks and the calendar moves ever closer to the first night of previews for The Nutty Professor Musical, things are getting pretty serious down at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, where the cast and crew of the Broadway-bound musical have set up shop in preparation for their first out-of-town tryout.

Led by director Jerry Lewis, "the king of comedy" upon whose 1963 classic film comedy the musical is based, the show features a book by three-time Tony Award-winner Rupert Holmes (whose The Mystery of Edwin Drood will be revived on Broadway later this season with a star-studded cast that includes the legendary Chita Rivera) and with a score by Marvin Hamlisch, one of only two people to have earned a Tony, an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and a Pulitzer Prize (Richard Rodgers is the other person to occupy some rarefied space).

JoAnn Hunter, who started her professional career at Nashville's late and lamented Opryland USA, provides the show's eye-popping choreography and Tony Award-winner David Gallo is designing the gorgeous sets (which rival his Tony-worthy designs for The Drowsy Chaperone) for the production, and Nashville's own Stephen Kummer will be in the pit, conducting the nine-member orchestra (which includes eight Nashvillians including Barry Green and Paul Carrol Binkley).

Members of the Metro Council haven't yet declared Nashville as "The City Where Nutty Musicals Are Born"-although we will continue our efforts to convince them to do so at least for the next five weeks while the company is still in town-so we will continue to be known all over the world as Music City USA. But we're a friendly bunch here, so we're delighted to welcome the mega-talented Nutty Professor company to our fair city and, since they're here now, we'll henceforth refer to them all as "Nashville's own…" (we know people, we can make this happen) and we're honestly happy they're now part of our local theater community. They add to our already rich ambience.

Suffice it to say, we feel even more welcoming after seeing the cast (they were absolutely amazing and were in perfect sync-even in a number they had learned only hours before) in action at TPAC's rehearsal hall  last week where they dazzled the assembled media types with their spirited performance of several of the show's best songs. Since there's no doubt that you'll be bumping into these newfound Music Citizens all over town in the next month, we think you need to get to know them better.

Last week we launched The Nutty Five as our way of welcoming all these talented people into our midst-even the ones who have Nashville connections, like today's star of the show Danny Young, who is the drummer for The Nutty Professor band (who may be just as jazzed up about his new drum set for the show as he is working with Jerry Lewis).

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"I've been working with the cast since the start of rehearsals and have also been working with the dance composer and orchestrator writing the drum book for the show," he says. "It's a crazy process being in dance rehearsals writing the drum book."

"I grew up in a tiny, rural town of 500 called Viola, Wisconsin," says the energetic, enthusiastic and completely focused Mr. Young. "I studied percussion performance at Luther College [he's a 2007 graduate] and I have been living out of various makes and models of suitcases for the past five years. I'm currently based in Nashville, but have planned to my move to the Big Apple upon finishing The Nutty Professor."

As committed as any company member to making the show a success, Danny Young has long been a fan of Jerry Lewis, who is one of his childhood idols, and he's very happy about finally being able to be in Nashville for more than just a couple of weeks at a time, even if all he sees is the inside of TPAC's rehearsal halls and the Polk Theatre.

So, it just seem like the timing is right for you to get to know Danny Young-later in the show's run we're going to share his insight into bringing the show to life from his unique position as the show's drummer, the arbiter of its rhythm.

What was your first "live onstage" taste of theater? My first taste of working in musical theater actually wasn't as a drummer, but playing the role of Winthrop in The Music Man when I was in third grade. It was the perfect roll for me to play since I actually had a lisp from knocking my two front teeth out trying to jump from the couch to piano bench. I obviously missed. I've always wondered if my cute lisp was the only reason I got the role... 

What is your favorite pre-show ritual? I love showing up to the theater extremely early so I can warm up, joke around with the crew, sip on some coffee, get dressed, then put on headphones and get myself energized with some old school funk/soul; typically including Earth Wind and Fire, Tower of Power, D'angelo, Maxwell and Incognito. Makes me very happy!

BWW Interviews: 'Nashville's Own' Drummer Danny Young Takes on THE NUTTY FIVE

What's your most memorable "the show must go on" moment? I have to pick just one? But there are so many! I would say one of the funniest was while I was on the road playing with an eight-person band including a virtual orchestra (a midi-based computer program that covers the instruments that you don't travel with). After finishing a number and being cut off by the conductor there was huge chord being played. We all started looking at each other trying to figure out what was going on. Turned out the computer had frozen and he couldn't get it to stop. After about 15 seconds the person playing the virtual orchestra decided to pull the power cord which resulted in the classic "electronic powering down sound" you could only imagine in a cartoon. I was crying from laughing so hard. 

What's your dream role? I don't know if I honestly have a "dream role" I have my heart set on playing drums for. There are so many fun, new shows coming out all the time that the joy for me is never knowing what's next. I must say that two of my favorite shows I would love to play would be Wicked and Book of Mormon, but I'm not necessarily making that a long-term goal. Working with Jerry Lewis has honestly filled the dream I had growing up. I was such a huge fan of his my whole life that my family thought I was going to be Jerry. On top of that, working on a new show like this is amazing because I'm actually getting to write most of the drum score. So I guess if I was to have a dream role, it would be the show I am lucky enough to be working on right now; right next to my childhood hero.

Have you ever been to Nashville before? And if so, what's your most vivid memory? If not, what do you wanna see and do while you're here? I have actually been based in Nashville for the past two years, but have been working for Royal Caribbean as an independent contractor, drumming with Nelson (the '80s hair band), subbing with a few country bands, and most recently finished 10 months on the road with Mel Brooks musical Young Frankenstein. So needless to say, I haven't spent as much time in Nashville as one would expect considering I live here. It's great getting to be in one place for a stint since Nashville has such a wide array of restaurants, bars, music venues on just about every corner! I have seen a lot of restaurants on the show Diners Drive-ins and Dives i've wanted to try, along with a handful of local breweries that are a must.

  • Tickets for The Nutty Professor are on sale now at www.tpac.org or by calling the TPAC box office at (615) 782-4040.

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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors, held during Labor Day Weekend, which honor oustanding theater artists in Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors. Midwinter's First Night, held the first Sunday in January after New Year's Day, honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. Further, Ellis directed the Nashville premiere of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show, with Ellis honored by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror.


 
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