The Nutty Professor's DANNY YOUNG Knows What He Wants To Be When He Grows Up


Danny Young grew up in the small Wisconsin town of Viola (population 500), the son of a band director, so it should come as absolutely no surprise that he's now plying his trade as a professional musician-a drummer, to be exact-who finds himself part of the blue-ribbon orchestra playing a brand-new Marvin Hamlisch score every night during performances of The Nutty Professor, A New Musical now onstage at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

As committed to his job as any of the other people who bring the show to life every performance, Danny Young is thrilled to be working with comedy legend Jerry Lewis (upon whose classic 1963 film comedy the musical is based-and who directed the brand new musical that features book and lyrics by Rupert Holmes), who is one of his childhood idols and to be playing alongside some of Nashville's finest musicians.

Under the direction of conductor Stephen Kummer, who has a lengthy resume of Nashville productions to his credit, the band (who are given their moment in the pre-Broadway spotlight when they come onstage atop Tony Award-winning designer David Gallo's gorgeous bandstand) is largely made up of hometown players-after all, where better to find the best musicians than in Music City USA?-including Barry Green, Paul Carrol Binkley, Jimmy Bowland, Matt Davich, Robby Shankle, Doug Moffet, Jennifer Kummer, Jeff Bailey, StEve Bailey, Bobby Brennan, Pat Coil and Ron Sorbo. True, some of them are from other cities (like bassist Brennan, for example), but they will now and forever be known as "Nashville players" what with the experience of The Nutty Professor under their belts.

Danny Young has been part of The Nutty Professor since early on: "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. It's a crazy process being in dance rehearsals writing the drum book."


It's customary for a drummer to be on-board early in the development of a new musical in order to get the rhythm and the beat just right and it's clear from talking to Danny Young that he's savoring every moment of his own Nutty Professor adventure, which has him back in Nashville for longer than a day or two. He's called Music City USA home for the past two years, but work has taken him all over the country (most recently he was part of the touring orchestra for Young Frankenstein-with a cast that included Tennessee Theatre Award winner Britt Hancock and Nashville's own Graham Keen).

After a week of preview performances gave the show's creative team a chance to see how it works in front of audiences (tinkering and tailoring the production for public consumption ahead of its intended Broadway transfer), The Nutty Professor opened on Tuesday night to thunderous ovations and near-unanimous praise from critics. Danny, the hard-working drummer who might justifiably be called "the arbiter of rhythm," somehow found time to talk to me about his work on the show and the impact it's had on his own future career aims and ambitions.

When did you become interested in the drums? Having a band director as a dad made it pretty certain I would be involved in music somehow. I always loved the drums in music and at a young age was constantly tapping on anything I could reach. I think the tiny Muppets drum set I got for Christmas when I was around five probably made me fall in love with the drums.

My brothers, sisters and I would put on shows in our basement and I was always the drummer. When I finally convinced my parents I was serious about it, they surprised me with a real drum set for Christmas. That was not only the best, but also the most life-changing Christmas present I ever received!

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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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