BWW Interviews: The Nutty Professor's Stella Purdy, MARISSA McGOWAN, Finds Time for THE NUTTY FIVE


Quickly, the time is approaching-that spectacular moment in the development of a new Broadway musical when the curtain rises for the first time and an audience has their first opportunity to share in all the excitement of the opening of a brand new show! In fact in just over 48 hours, audiences at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center's James K. Polk Theatre will be the very first "regular folk" given the chance to see The Nutty Professor Musical.

Directed by Jerry Lewis, known throughout the world as "the king of comedy," The Nutty Professor boasts a stellar creative collective that includes Rupert Holmes (the three-time Tony Award winner provides the book), music and lyrics by Marvin Hamlisch (the Tony-, Oscar-, Emmy- and Grammy-winner also has a Pulitzer Prize), choreographer JoAnn Hunter (whose first professional gig was at Opryland USA, proving that there is always a Nashville connection), scenic designer David Gallo (who won the Tony Award for The Drowsy Chaperone), costume designer Ann Hould-Ward (who won the Tony for Beauty and The Beast), and music director Todd Ellison (whose worked on some of Broadway's most acclaimed musicals during his career). Clearly, The Nutty Professor has a sterling pedigree to entice ticket buyers.

For two weeks now, the company has been in Tennessee, working hard to tweak the show and to mount the production that will be the new musical's first steps toward Broadway-all while being situated on a downtown Nashville thoroughfare just a few blocks from our own Broadway-and the clamor has been building ever since. We've been focusing on members of the company for ten days now, introducing each of the exceptionally talented people one-by-one to their new Nashville community of fans, friends and family.

Today, our spotlight focuses in on the show's leading lady, the luminously beautiful Marissa McGowan, the actress who plays Stella Purdy, the love interest of the musical's repressed and shy Professor Julius Kelp and his suave and sophisticated doppelganger Buddy Love.

"Stella is very progressive for 1962 [the musical's time frame]," she says. "Because this is a musical, we get to know Stella better than you would expect. She's a driven young woman who loves academics...she's such a beautiful character...this rehearsal process has allowed me to discover all that she is about."

During a media look-in at the company's rehearsals, McGowan knocked the socks off of all those cynical folk, delivering a beautiful rendition of a new Hamlisch-penned power ballad that we're likely to hear for years to come.

Of course, McGowan's performance comes as absolutely no surprise. She made her Broadway debut in the revival of Les Miserables in 2006, understudying the roles of Cosette and Eponine. Subsequently, she was in the Tony Award-winning revival of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music, and most recently she was in the ensemble of Frank Wildhorn's latest Broadway musical, Bonnie and Clyde.

As talented as she is, Marissa McGowan is also charming and friendly-the amazing thing about this company is that they all get along so well and have become such good friends in such a relatively short time during rehearsals in both New York City and Nashville-and she has lovely sense of humor. Prepare to fall a little bit in love with her when you see the show.

Finding time to answer our Nutty Five questions, she shares some really terrific stories, including some memories of the show that set her off on an enthralling theatrical journey and she proves, just like all her castmates have done, that they are now Nashvillians through-and-through, particularly when it's time to eat! So, read on, gentle theaterati, and get to know "Nashville's own" Marissa McGowan, so when you meet her, you'll know who you're talking to…

BWW Interviews: The Nutty Professor's Stella Purdy, MARISSA McGOWAN, Finds Time for THE NUTTY FIVE

What was your first taste of "live onstage" theater? My first taste of seeing live theater that I really remember was seeing Les Miserables on Broadway when I was 11.  It changed my life. I was obsessed and memorized every word of the London cast recording and my sister and I would sing along, full out, with British dialects every car ride.  That made it even more special when I made my Broadway debut in the revival of Les Miserables as an adult.

Do you have a favorite pre-show ritual? I seem to develop a new pre show ritual with each show I do.  When I did Bonnie and Clyde I sang in a trio with two other girls (Alison Cimmet and Garrett Long).  Every night before the show we'd sing though our song in our dressing room, just to make sure we were in sync-sometimes if I was running late (which I often was) I would be brushing my teeth as we sang.

What's your favorite "the show must go on" experience? I've had skirts fall off on stage, I've been hit in
the face, I've been snotted on while stage kissing, barricades have broken...You name it!

What's your dream role? Well, to be really honest, a role like Stella Purdy is a dream role!  I've always wanted to create an awesome role in a new musical, and Rupert and Marvin and Jerry have given me that opportunity with Nutty Professor.  I guess I can cross that one off my list!

What do you want to see and do while you're in Music City? I am so excited to be in Nashville and take in some live music and definitely some barbeque-I love that mac-and-cheese is a vegetable here!

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





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