New York, N.Y. – October 21, 2014 – Mop the stage floor, polish the foot lights and get the lint off the orchestra seats! Hazel, the comic maid created by cartoonist Ted Key, arrives in New York this week for three staged readings of a musical that is sweeping its way towards Broadway.
“Hazel, A Musical Maid in America,” is the brainchild of composer Ron Abel and lyricist Chuck Steffan. The two recruited playwright and television writer/producer Lissa Levin to do the book for it after they licensed the rights to Hazel from Key’s estate three years ago.
The readings will be directed by Lucie Arnaz, daughter of comedienne Lucille Ball and band leader Desi Arnaz, and a renowned performer in her own right who is currently playing Berthe in the production of “Pippin” running at Broadway’s Music Box Theatre. The readings will be held at the Abingdon Theatre Company’s June Havoc Theatre on Thursday, October 23rd and Friday, October 24th. They are not open to the public, but are meant to showcase the play to industry professionals.
Hazel was created by Key in 1943 and ran in The Saturday Evening Post until 1969 when King Features Syndicate began distributing her to newspapers. She was the subject of the TV show “Hazel,” which garnered its star, Shirley Booth, two Emmy Awards when it ran in prime time from 1961 through 1966.
“Hazel, A Musical Maid in America,” is set in the 1960s, and shows how Hazel comes to be employed — and adored — by the Baxters, a suburban family replete with husband, wife, boy and dog. The musical features topics of the times it’s set in, such as women’s lib and the space race, but, like Hazel herself, transcends its era due to its humor and big heart.
Abel and Steffan thought the maid would make a good subject for a musical because, as they pondered the current state of the world, they said to each other, “Remember when life was funny?”
Arnaz agreed to direct the reading and commented on the production, saying: "’Hazel: A Musical Maid In America,’ is one of the best new musicals I have read in 35 years, and I am honored to be asked to guide its first presentation."
Key passed away in 2008, but his family thinks he would be thrilled with the musical’s rendering of his signature creation.
“Ron, Chuck and Lissa have captured the combination of sensitivity and brassiness that has made Hazel a unique and beloved character for nearly 75 years,” said Peter Key, Ted Key’s youngest son, who wrote gags for the Hazel comic panel from 1975 through 1983.
Lucie Arnaz, Ron Abel, Chuck Steffan and Lissa Levin are all available for interviews. To schedule an interview with them, contact Peter Key at email@example.com or 484-463-8359. Industry professionals interested in attending one of the readings should contact Ryan Conway at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ron Abel is a multi-award winning composer, producer and musical director who has created concert acts for Broadway stars Lucie Arnaz, Michelle Lee and Valarie Pettiford, and has arranged and/or conducted for Bette Midler, Liza Minelli, Tyne Daly, Gladys Knight and Jason Alexander, among many others. He provided Musical Direction and Original Music for the “I Love Lucy 50th Anniversary Special;” composed the theme and was musical director for the late-night talk show “Nitecap;” and played himself on the Fran Drescher TV Land series “Happily Divorced.” His theatre credits include the score for “Twist of Fate,” a play written by Lissa Levin. In addition to “Hazel,” his current projects include four other musicals with his partner, lyricist Chuck Steffan, and another musical with ties to The Saturday Evening Post — “Rockwell: Life on a Palette,” for which Eleanor Albano and Anthony Barnao provided book and lyrics.
Chuck Steffan has had his lyrics sung on concert stages from the legendary jazz club Birdland in New York to the famous Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., as well as on television and numerous recordings. Artists who have sung and/or recorded songs with his lyrics include Tony Award winners Brian Stokes Mitchell and Christine Ebersole, plus Sierra Boggess, Valarie Pettiford and Lucie Arnaz. Musicals for which Steffan has written lyrics include “Survival Crackers,” “To Sir, With Love,” and “Bricktop, Queen of the Night,” all of which were scored by his partner, Ron Abel. Steffan and Abel are working on the film musical, “Timeless,” for which Steffan is writing the lyrics and screenplay.
Lissa Levin is a librettist/lyricist, a playwright, and a 25-year veteran of television as a writer and producer on such shows as “Mad About You,” “Cheers,” “Family Ties,” “WKRP in Cincinnati” and “Mr. Belvedere,” among others. Her libretto for “Twist of Fate” won the prestigious Kleban Award, which is given by the Kleban Foundation to honor the late Ed Kleban, the lyricist for “A Chorus Line.” The play also won two L.A. Drama Critics Circle Awards and was named Musical of the Year by L.A. Weekly. Levin’s play, “Sex and Education,” first presented at the Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage Festival, had its New York premiere in 2014. Her essay, “Pisser,” a rant about the lack of sufficient bathroom stalls in women’s rest rooms in theatres, was published by Random House in “Life’s A Stitch,” a collection of contemporary humor by noted women in the arts.
Lucie Arnaz has had an extremely diversified show-business career spanning more than 45 years. The daughter of comedienne Lucille Ball and band leader Desi Arnaz, she has starred on the New York stage in “They’re Playing Our Song,” “Lost in Yonkers,” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” and is currently playing Berthe in the production of “Pippin” running at Broadway’s Music Box Theatre. On television, she starred in “The Lucie Arnaz Show,” recurred in six seasons of “Here’s Lucy,” and appeared in “Sons and Daughters,” “The Black Dahlia,” and “The Mating Season,” among other shows. She also was the executive producer of the “I Love Lucy 50th Anniversary Special,” which was nominated for an Emmy Award, and “Lucy & Desi: A Home Movie,” which won one. Arnaz has acted in numerous movies; recorded two compact discs; and performed concerts around the world, often with musical support from Ron Abel. With her brother Desi, she manages Desilu too LLC, and with her husband, actor Laurence Luckinbill, she manages five grown children.
Ted Key created Hazel for The Saturday Evening Post in 1943. The comic panel about a bossy but lovable maid appeared in The Post until 1969 and has been distributed to newspapers since by King Features Syndicate, even though Key stopped drawing it in 1993 and died in 2008. Hazel cartoons have been collected in 11 books. The TV show “Hazel” ran in prime time from 1961 through 1966, garnering its star, Shirley Booth, two Emmy Awards. It has been syndicated throughout the world, and is available on DVD. In addition to Hazel, Key created the characters who became Peabody and Sherman, the time-traveling dog and boy featured in “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” which was released by DreamWorks Animation in March. Key also wrote the stories for three 1970 movies by The Walt Disney Co.: “The Million Dollar Duck,” “Gus,” and “The Cat from Outer Space,” the last of which he also scripted and novelized. Additionally, he wrote three children’s books, one of which was made into the movie, “Digby, The Biggest Dog in the World,” and drew cartoons for a biweekly series of motivational posters that were distributed to businesses across the country for 35 years.
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