Jule Styne/Bob Merrill’s Mr. Magoo Actors Fund Holiday Musical Will Be a Very Tony Benefit
By: Ellis Nassour
Tony winner Lillias White, two-time Tony nominee Joshua Henry, Tony nominee Robert Cuccioli, and Tony nominee Douglas Sills headline the cast of The Actors Fund’s December 15 benefit concert of Jule Styne and Bob Merrill’s Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. Based on the prime-time animated holiday special that featured one of the most popular cartoon characters of the time, this premiere stage version one-night-only event is at 7:30 at John Jay College’s Gerald W. Lynch Theatre [899 Tenth Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets].
The musical is "a delightful retelling of the Dickens classic, featuring the comically myopic cartoon character with the bulbous nose Quincy Magoo." It was adapted for TV by Barbara Chain.
Two-time Tony winner [with six nominations] and the recipient of a Drama Desk Lifetime Achievement Award Styne is the legendary composer of numerous classic musicals of Broadway’s Golden Age: Take Me Along, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Peter Pan, Mr. Wonderful, Bells Are Ringing, Gypsy, Funny Girl, and Hallelujah Baby.
Eight-time Tony nominee Merrill partnered with Styne on Take Me Along and Funny Girl, music and lyrics for New Girl in Town [the adaptation of O’Neill’s Anna Christie] and Carnival, contributed to Jerry Herman’s score for Hello, Dolly, and wrote lyrics for numerous shows, including the stage adaptation of Some Like It Hot, numerous other shows that, sadly didn’t have long runs, and such pop hits as "(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?" and "Mambo Italiano."
Sills has the title role of Mr. Magoo/Scrooge, with Henry as Bob Cratchit, Cuccioli as Marley’s Ghost, Erik Altemus as young Ebenezer Scrooge, and White as the Charwoman. The large cast is rounded out by two-time Tony nominee Christopher Sieber, Tony nominee Jeff Blumenkrantz, John Bolton, Jennifer Cody, Don Darryl Rivera, Matthew Scott, and Betsy Wolfe. Directing is Peter Flynn, with musical direction by Emmy winner John McDaniel and choreography by Marcos Santana. McDaniel is using the original orchestrations – heard live for the first time – complimented by a full orchestra.
Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol originally airing in December 1962. It benefited greatly from the voice of popular Broadway actor Jack Cassidy as Bob Crachit and the former vaudeville hoofer and a later Trixie on The Honeymooners, Jane Kane. It featured one of the most popular cartoon characters of the day and was the first animated holiday special produced for TV.
Mr. Magoo was a wealthy, short-statured retiree who always landed in comical situations as a result of his nearsightedness, compounded by his stubborn refusal to admit the problem. He had the uncanny luck to somehow make it out alive.
The character was voiced by multi-talented Jim Backus, who worked steadily for over five decades in Hollywood and who’s probably best known for his run as the upper crust Thurston Howell in TV’s long-running Gilligan’s Island, but he had numerous dramatic roles, including portraying James Dean’s father in Rebel without a Cause. Backus voiced Mr. Magoo from its inception in 1949 through the late 70s. It’s was also popular staple in cinemas, and won two Oscars for Best Short Subject.
Proceeds from Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol Actors Fund benefit will support the programs and services of the esteemed national human services organization that helps everyone in performing arts and entertainment and maintains the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic and the Lillian Booth Actors Home in New Jersey. The Fund directly serves more than 17,000 entertainment professionals across the country, and thousands more through its online resources. Joseph Benincasa is president and CEO, Brian Stokes Mitchell is chairman of the board.
Tickets for Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol are $75, $150, and $250. There are premium tickets $500 and $1,000 that include access to the post-performance cast party. Purchase online at www.actorsfund.org/Magoo, by calling (212) 221-7300, X. 133, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.