Local playwrights’ show ‘Fabulous’ gets off-Broadway run

Date: 10/30/2014

SPRINGFIELD – Getting a show in an off-Broadway theater is almost as tough as getting a production on Broadway, but two local men have beaten those odds.

Michael Rheault of Springfield and Dan Derby of Enfield, CT.  not only have the satisfaction of seeing their show’s name up in lights at the Times Square Arts Center, they now have learned the production’s run has been extended.

According to the two men in a conversation with Reminder Publications, “Fabulous! The Queen of Musical Comedies” is an affectionate throwback to the musical comedies of the 1950s and ‘60s. The plot is a takeoff of sorts of Billy Wilder’s “Some Like it Hot:” two female impersonators take a job on a cruise ship as women performers and must keep their male identities a secret.

The Broadway Blog: An Insider’s Guide to Theater noted, “A new musical set sail last week at the Times Square Arts Center, and while ‘Fabulous!’ may not be breaking ground in the genre, it is most certainly a guilty pleasure worth seeing. Inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood and Broadway, Dan Derby (book and lyrics) and Michael Rheault (music) have crafted a whimsical romp that draws plot lines and musical riffs from familiar titles such as ‘Some Like It Hot,’ ‘Anything Goes’ and ‘Dames at Sea.’”

The show had its first staged reading in 2009 at Westfield State University and had a limited run at the Richmond Shepherd Theater in New York City in 2012. The present production started in September and has been extended until the end of the year.

Derby said the theater is only a half-block away from 42nd Street and Rheault added, “We’re very happy with the location.”

Derby responded that seeing the marquee featuring their play is “surreal.”

The two men have been working on the plat for almost 10 years. Rheault is the composer and is also director of Performing Arts Activities at Bay Path University, director of Music at First Park Memorial Baptist Church, a piano instructor and accompanist at Springfield College, and cantor/organist at Sacred Heart Church in Agawam.

Derby wrote the book and lyrics and is a graduate of Westfield State University. Besides writing, he is an actor, director and acting coach.

Derby said the play started off as review, rather than a full-fledged musical, but it grew. Rheault added that it is definitely a tribute to a kind of musical theater that isn’t seen in New York any longer.

He added that younger people have actually thanked him and Derby for reviving this kind of entertainment as it reflected “the image of Broadway they had in their heads.”

The show has a gay theme and Derby said that it helped the production that issues such as marriage equality are in the news. He noted the success of shows such as the recent “Kinky Boots” and “La Cage Aux Folles” helped their show.

“‘La Cage’ broke through barriers,” Derby said. “It made it easier to produce something like this.”

Rheault said their show is “not a preachy eat-your-spinach kind of thing. It’s not shoving an issue down your throat.”

Derby said, “the biggest fan base is people over the age of 55 who grew up with this style of musical comedy. They really embrace it. They came to accept it.”

Both men had a hand in casting the show and made tweaks to it as they see it perform the audience react.

Rheault said, “The structure works really well.” Derby added, “The show’s in great shape. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

The current production isn’t the final location in their journey. Both men hope to have the show moved to a larger off-Broadway theater.

Rheault said they have dreams of a Broadway production, but “we taking it one step at a time.”
    For more information on “Fabulous! The Queen of Musical Comedies,” log onto http://fabulousthemusicalcomedy.com.