Another new musical has opened in the Chicago area. It is a musical version of an old television sit-com, “Hazel” ( bringing fame to actress Shirley Booth), having its World Premiere at Drury Lane. The sit-com was based on a cartoon character (or might we say caricature) drawn by Ted Key for The Saturday Evening Post (a weekly magazine for you youngsters…you might want to google the word magazine and see what that was all about). This new musical, with a book by Lissa Levin, music by Ron Abel and Lyrics by Chuck Steffan, has some very cute moments, with a wonderful lead performer, Ms Klea Blackhurst, bringing this character to life.
The premise of the story: It is the 1960’s, a time where America is experiencing many changes. The conflicts with Russia on who can conquer space first. Women’s movements and politics enter into the scene as well. The Baxter family, George (Ken Clark) and his wife, Dorothy (gloriously played by Summer Naomi Smart) reside in a quiet suburban neighborhood with their adorable son, Harold (deftly handled by Casey Lyons, who is as cute as a button and has a voice that is golden). Young Harold and his friends, three of the cutest kids you will ever see on any stage Tyler Martin, Ava Morse and Rowan Moxley, all able to stop the audience with just a glance or a line, find what they believe to be a U.F.O., Unidentified Flying Object, and think that the aliens have landed.
While this creates a lot of excitement, and gets the military involved, George is working on snagging his big client for the law firm he represents, in hopes of a promised partnership. At the same time,Dorothy has gone back to work and so they have opted to hire a maid, which is where Hazel comes in. Ms. Blackhurst (a sort of younger Ethel Merman who can also act) starts the show by capturing the audience and uses many asides along the way to keep us involved in the story. I do need to mention here, that although this is a cute premise and there are some “outrageously good performances”, this is still a show “in progress or process”. That being said, you will have fun. You will probably not recall one song or tune, but you will remember the four kids that steal your hearts and the great ensemble member that Director/choreographer Joshua Bergasse has put on the Drury Lane stage.
The major client that “Mr. B” is trying to land is Bonkers Johnson (incredible job by Chicago favorite Ed Kross) who as it turns out finds himself involved with the kids and Hazel as well. The Baxters have their ups and downs in this expanded sit-com that is 2 hours and twenty minutes in length with one 15 minute intermission. The ensemble players: Bill Bannon, Johnson Brock, Courtney Cerny, Rhett Guter, Terrance Martin, Shari Mocheit, Kristen Noonan, Gerard Salvador, Holly Stauder, Erica Evans, Brian M. Duncan , Roy Gantz and the wildly sexy Meghan Murphy (who as Airman Fillmore has amazing chemistry with young Rowan Moxley- they stopped the show with their little shtick!). I always talk about the importance of the ensemble and this production proves this!
The set (Kevin Depinet), costumes (Sully Ratke), lighting (Lee Fiskness) projections (Christopher Ash, sound (Ray Nardelli), with musical direction by Roberta Duchak along with Alan Bukowiecki conducting the Drury Lane Orchestra (he is magical on the keyboards as well) of eight makes this a very complete production. As I said, a bit long, but after all Hazel has been around for over 70 years. Why rush her in getting to a conclusion. I do think that while this show is planted her thru May 20th, they might make a few changes here and there. That might just be a positive. I would love to hear from you as to your feelings.
“Hazel, a Musical Maid in America” will continue at Drury Lane Oakbrook thru May 20th with performances as follows:
Thursdays 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 5 and 8:30 p.m.
Sundays 2 and 6 p.m. *
* May 8th will be 3 and 7 p.m.
Tickets range from $45- $60 and are available at the box office, by calling 630-530-0111, Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000 or online at www.DruryLaneTheatre.com There is plenty of free parking at Drury Lane and dinner and lunch packages are available.
Seniors are $40 for matinees
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Hazel, a Musical Maid in America”.