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 Hazelcomes 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 Hazelcomic panel from 1975 through 1983.