News From ME

Jerry Lewis

It's Happening! It's Happening!

He's been saying it was about to open for years now but he never had a theater and actual dates before! Jerry Lewis's oft-announced stage musical of The Nutty Professor opens July 24 at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center for a pre-Broadway tryout! See? Take a look! I'm half-tempted to go all the way to Nashville just to see this.

Thanks to Galen Fott for this Earth-shattering news. Next thing I know, the Rockies will crumble and Gibraltar will tumble. (They're only made of clay, y'know…)

Late Breaking Jerry News

So according to Jerry Lewis, his musical version of The Nutty Professor is going to open on Broadway on November 15. Kathleen Marshal, they're saying, is going to choreograph, which raises two questions…

One is whether Ms. Marshal, who has also done some directing, is in to be more than the choreographer. It takes a lot of expertise to direct a Broadway show and apart from his time in a revival of Damn Yankees and the aborted Hellzapoppin' flop, Jerry hasn't even logged a lot of miles on the legit stage as a performer, let alone as a director. Mel Brooks, who's the same age as Jerry and has directed a lot of funny films, didn't feel qualified to direct the stage versions of two of those movies. You'd kinda think Jerry would need a co-director, billed or unbilled, with some experience in putting on a musical…preferably someone under 80.

And here's the other question: How could Kathleen Marshal possibly choreograph a Broadway show that's opening on November 15? She's directing and choreographing the musical version of the movie Diner and it plays a tryout engagement in San Francisco from October 23 through November 18 with an expected opening in New York in Spring of '13. See here.

But in spite of this, I'm more inclined to shift my thinking and to believe The Nutty Professor might just happen…maybe not by 11/15/12 but someday. They may not have a theater yet but they've had a runthrough and they have a website. That's a start. Thanks to Vinnie Favale and Josh Curtis for telling me about the Diner conflict.

Jerry News

J. Hoberman reports on a recent New York appearance by Jerry Lewis that sounds a lot like the one I attended in Beverly Hills a few weeks ago. It includes the odd remark that Lewis is "the most cerebral Hollywood funny man since Buster Keaton." "Cerebral?" I can't think of any sense in which that is so. In fact, it seems to me the main artery of Jer's appeal is how he is so much the opposite of "cerebral." But okay.

Jerry said at the event that the long-heralded Broadway musical of The Nutty Professor will open November 15 of this year, which would be a good indicator that it's going forward if they also have a theater booked. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they do and the show currently playing there doesn't want its termination to be announced just yet. Or perhaps this is like the announcement that the show was definitely going to debut in New York in 2009, was definitely going to debut in New York in 2010 and was definitely going to debut in New York in 2011.

Jerry will direct, Michael Andrew will star, Kathleen Marshall (who choreographed the recent revivals of Anything Goes and Pajama Game) will do the dances, Marvin Hamlisch is supplying the score and Rupert Holmes has written the book.

I've decided to strike a note of guarded optimism about this one; not that it'll be a hit — I have no idea — but that it'll ever happen. I know there are those who think that at age 86, Jerry Lewis is too old to direct a Broadway musical but hey, George Abbott directed a show at the age of 96. Then again, that was Mr. Abbott's 35th and final directing job on Broadway and Mr. Lewis is looking at his first…

The Delicate Delinquent

Hey, remember that evening with Jerry Lewis last week that I told you about here? Well, Jerry's interviewer Leonard Maltin tells us what it was like from his vantage point. Leonard is being diplomatic when he suggests that Jerry tends to wander off topics.

That Kid…Live!

Last evening, I attended a memorable event at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills. As mentioned here, there's a new DVD coming out of a TV version of The Jazz Singer starring Jerry Lewis. (And before I forget: If you're in L.A., you might want to know that Jerry will be signing them tonight at 6 PM at the Barnes & Noble in The Grove.)

To kick things off, there was a private invitational event at the Paley. Mr. Lewis was interviewed by Leonard Maltin before an audience that included Martin Short, Jeff Garlin, Marty Ingels and Shirley Jones, Kevin Pollak, Judy Tenuta, Richard Lewis, Richard Kind, Ruta Lee, Kat Kramer, Ken Davitian and many others. Adam Sandler also put in a brief appearance but didn't stay for the show at which Leonard asked questions as did half the folks I just named. To those questions, Jerry gave answers…which is not to suggest that his answers had much to do with their questions. He had amazing energy for a man who's 85 and he did these long philosophical discourses in seeming response to what he was asked. But if I showed you the questions and then I showed you the answers and offered you a hundred bucks for every A you could match with a Q, you'd barely make a nickel.

Nevertheless, the audience found it fascinating. What he did say, rambling though it was, was not without interest…and what the hell? He's Jerry Lewis. If we wanted answers, we'd watch Jeopardy! Last night, we were all Jerry's Kids.

One thing he did answer: Leonard asked him about the status of the musical based on The Nutty Professor. Jerry said he was working on a movie now but in two months, he's going to New York and the show is on and he expects it to open on Broadway on (I wrote this down when he said it) November 20, 2012. I don't know why that date but that's what the man said. That's what he said, all right. That's what the man said.

Other than that, he talked a lot about "my partner" or "Paul" which is how he said he always addressed Dean. He talked a lot about his love for working. He said some very nice things about Leonard, describing him as one of the few members of "the press" who knows what he's talking about. He spoke very seriously about working with Robert DeNiro in King of Comedy and saying essentially that if his [Jerry's] performance was any good, it was because he fed off DeNiro's skill and some of it must have rubbed off. He also said a lot of stuff that I can't summarize because even though I was sitting about ten feet from Jerry and heard every word he said, I had no idea what he was talking about half the time. I think Martin Short got a lot of material for a new impression of the guy.

Friends ask me what it is that I like about Jerry Lewis. I dunno. That he's Jerry Lewis, I guess. He is in a way the last of a breed. Name me one other human being who starred in hit motion pictures in the fifties and sixties and is still standing…and who also was a genuine star on TV, in night clubs, on radio, even in comic books. There may be one but Leonard and I put our heads to the question at the after-party and we couldn't come up with a name. Jerry has these periodic moments of volatility, lashing out at critics and female comedians and imagined foes but against that, he has this massive body of important work and some genuine generosity…and it all seems to come from passion, not selfishness.

For some odd reason, the event last night was subtitled "60 Years of Comedy." None of us could figure out where they got sixty years because Jerry started performing on stage in 1931 and was billed as a solo act by around 1940. Martin and Lewis were hot enough to appear on the first Ed Sullivan TV show (then called The Toast of the Town) in 1948 and that's sixty-four years ago. I haven't been wild about a lot of the films and other appearances but I can sure respect the history.

The new DVD of his Jazz Singer is another piece of that history. If you'd like to get a copy of it, here's an Amazon link. The clips they showed last night made it look well worth viewing.