BWW Interviews: The Nutty Professor's Sarah Marie Jenkins Answers THE NUTTY FIVE


Anticipation is almost to the boiling point in Nashville, as the time nears for the curtain to rise on the first preview of The Nutty Professor, the brand new musical based on the 1963 Jerry Lewis classic film comedy. With a book by Rupert Holmes (a three-time Tony Award winner for The Mystery of Edwin Drood, his acclaimed musical that will be revived on Broadway later this year) and music by Marvin Hamlisch (who has a Tony, an Oscar, an Emmy and a Grammy at home-along with a Pulitzer Prize for A Chorus Line), the brand new musical is directed by the "king of comedy" himself, Jerry Lewis.

The excitement is fairly palpable as Nashville has gone positively, absolutely Nutty ahead of the show's run at TPAC's James K. Polk Theatre-the first preview is July 24 and the show runs through August 26-and it will be here in Music City USA that the show's future is likely to be determined. If it's a hit in Nashville, where we love our musical theater, the show's very likely to hit the Great White Way.

But while they're here-the whole amazing troupe of actors, dancers, musicians, crew members, techies and the creative team-we're doing all we can to make them feel welcome, in the way that we Southerners are bound and determined to do. Since arriving in town, they've all been hard at work polishing the show, learning choreographer JoAnn Hunter's new dance steps, perfecting their songs and hitting their marks…so down-time has been rare. Still, at some point, you're sure to bump into these exceedingly talented and excessively attractive theater types all over town, so it's up to you to make 'em feel at home.

Thus, we present The Nutty Five, our continuing series designed to help you get to know the whole Nutty bunch of 'em, so that those initial meetings aren't quite so awkward.

Today the spotlight falls on Sarah Marie Jenkins. And I've gotta tell you, there's just something about Sarah-she's charming and funny and disarmingly appealing, she's pretty and talented and, well, you're just gonna love her. Hell, I've only shared emails and Facebook messages and posts with her and I'm already crazy about her (but in a talented girl-crush sort of way, not like some creepy stalker kind of way)! Seriously, if you're not just absolutely taken with her after reading this interview, then read it again.

Granted, I was lucky enough to see her and her ridiculously gifted comrades perform several songs last week during a media look-in, so I know what I'm talking about here: Sarah Marie Jenkins (she probably thinks she's in trouble since I've been calling her by all three names!) is on the brink of stardom. In The Nutty Professor ensemble, Sarah plays Viv, one of a trio of girls who are friends of Stella Purdy (played by the equally drop-dead gorgeous and gifted Marissa McGowan)-the love interest of the show's anti-hero Julius Kelp (and his suave and sophisticated doppelganger Buddy Love), played by Michael Andrew.

So, read along good people, and when you bump into her over meatballs, fried cheese and strippers on Printer's Alley, just smile knowingly and let her go ahead of you-we don't want her missing any entrances!

What was your first "live onstage" taste of theater? I saw the national tour of Cats in San Diego and realized I could perform on a stage bigger than the front of my first grade classroom (where I used to stage my own productions including a completely lip-synched version of The Little Mermaid, written, directed, choreographed by and starring me).

What is your favorite pre-show ritual? FaceTime phone call to my husband (and dog) so I can remember what they look like from so far away.  

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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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