Is 2017 the year to launch a musical about a maid who rules the roost after the wife and mother gets a job against her husband’s wishes?

“Hazel: A Musical Maid in America,” inspired by the early-to-mid-’60s TV series starring Shirley Booth and based on a Saturday Evening Post comics character, will be presented in a pair of staged readings Jan. 27 and 28 at Molloy College’s Madison Theatre. It’s part of Madison artistic director Angelo Fabroni’s initiative to make the theater on the Rockville Centre campus a venue for developing shows for Broadway.

“Hopefully, we’re Broadway bound,” says director-choreographer Parker Esse, who directed a full production of “Hazel” at Chicago’s Drury Lane Theatre last spring. “Since then, we’ve added new songs and dropped peripheral characters to get to the heart of the musical,” he says. “There will be script changes right up to the last minute. That’s why it’s a staged reading,” which means cast members are still “on book” — reading or singing from the revised script and libretto. “It’s a chance to develop the show in front of a live audience. And they get to see a new work in progress.”


Changes in spoken lines are by Lissa Levin, who wrote the book for the “Hazel” musical, while new songs by composer Ron Abel and lyricist Chuck Steffan get their first tryout on the Madison stage, under the musical direction of Aaron Gandy of Molloy’s music faculty. The show is also an opportunity for fine arts students to be in a show with professionals and to network with them.

“Aaron scouted it for us,” says Fabroni. “We couldn’t find a musical that was ready. We looked at ‘The Wanderer,’ a Dion musical. But Aaron had seen ‘Hazel’ in Chicago and said it was further along. We’ll probably bring in ‘Wanderer’ this time next year.”

“Hazel” stars Klea Blackhurst in the title role of the maid “whose mission is to solve everyone’s problems in the Baxter family,” says Esse. Blackhurst is best-known for her Ethel Merman tribute show, “Everything the Traffic Will Allow.”

advertisement | advertise on newsday


In “Hazel,” the nominal head of the household is George Baxter. Preoccupied with making partner at his law firm, Mr. B (as Hazel calls him) is dismayed to learn that his wife has joined the workforce outside the home. Dorothy didn’t tell him for fear he’d say no. Now she can’t be around to drive the kids hither and yon and listen to their complaints. But Hazel handles it all — and everybody.

If this scenario sounds dated, Esse counters that “Hazel” is more pertinent now than ever. “Their son, Harold, is obsessed with the Russians after Sputnik. Now the Russians are challenging us again. Meanwhile, Dorothy ventures out at the start of women’s liberation. Hazel makes it possible for her to have a career. See how far we’ve come?

“Besides,” Esse adds, “we all need an escape just now.”