By Bonnie Goldberg

    Warren Carlyle, as a young chap of five growing up in Britain, would listen to music and instantly imagine people dancing to it in his head.  By the age of ten, this hyperactive lad was into swimming, track and karate.  When he saw the movie “Top Hat,” he started tap dance lessons and the rest, as they say, is choreography history.
    Carlyle as a young adult found himself doing shows in the West End of London and when he met the likes of a Susan Strohman and Gwen Verdon, he landed across the pond, with their help, almost a decade ago.  Busy is Carlyle’s middle name as he has been involved in a litany of remarkable hits, most recently a revival of “Finian’s Rainbow” in concert form, which will open on Broadway this September.  Other work includes the 2002 revival of “Oklahoma!,” “Tale of Two Cities,” “On the Town,” “Juno,” “Stairway to Paradise,” as well as a score of European credits.  He often works on three projects at the same time.
    Carlyle freely admits to being “a storyteller my whole life” so it was a natural for him to spread his dancing wings and enter the directing field.  He has “”a great appreciation for life which I express in my art.”  Right now this new American citizen is immersing himself in a project at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, “Lucky Guy,” with book, music and lyrics by Willard Beckham, set to run today until Sunday, June 14.
    When interviewed recently, Carlyle confessed that he wakes up every morning happy, that he’s having a “fantastic time, laughing every single day, creating something new and different.”  He has been working with Beckham since Thanksgiving, a good solid six months before coming to the Norma Terris.
    In some ways, he feels working on a new script like “Lucky Guy” is preferable to an existing work.  “It is easier, there’s more freedom, no rules, no perimeters. “ He is fully cognizant that today’s Broadway shows need $20,000,000  to launch and sticking with the tried and tested, something developed from a book or movie is sought, or a revival.  He acknowledges, “it’s a treat to work on a new show, to be in the trenches with Willard.  We love each other and he has a great twinkle in his eye and a grand sense of humor.”
    The two men met socially in New York years ago but never worked together before.  The play, about a nice, wholesome fellow named Billy Ray Jackson (Josh Grisetti) who wants to be a recording star, had a play reading in New York in January and now is being mounted for the first time at the Norma Terris.
    Carlyle has already learned he ropes here, having worked on “The Pirates of Penzance” and “The Baker’s Wife” at Goodspeed’s two venues. Loving to be challenged and to learn as much as he can, he is delighted to have brought an incredible Broadway team with him:  the costume designer William Ivey Long, the lighting designer Ken Billington, the scenic designer Walt Spangler and Todd Ellison,  the music supervisor .
    Wearing both the director’s hat and the choreographer’s shoes is a puzzle to crack that he loves.  He enjoys them each differently.  While a director has a script, a concept, something on the written page to develop, a choreographer starts with a blank page and he’s free to create.  In the final analysis, he feels privileged because it is wonderful to do both, and he is delighted to be in such esteemed company in a place like Goodspeed that is so supportive of the creative process, ”a safe haven for artists to create new musicals.”
    “Lucky Guy” is a simple love story filled with humor and surprises.  A four man chorus plays a myriad of roles, from cowboys to Indians to square dancers and roller skating angels.  When Billy Ray finds a matchbook announcing a music contest, he enters it and wins a trip to Nashville to record his song.  Along the way he meets some nice and not-so-nice people.  The music is “meat loaf and mashed potatoes,”  easy listening and hummable.
    The message of the musical is “it’s not what you’ve got in life that counts, it’s who you’ve got to share it with that matters.”  “Lucky Guy” is a hopeful tale of family and values as so many struggle today with economic woes.  Call Goodspeed at 860-873-8668 for tickets.  Performances are tonight at 8 p.m., most Thursdays at  2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and most Sundays at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
    Come and be enchanted by this new musical comedy filled with fun, romance and trailer homes with twenty eight rooms and discover Warren Carlyle, director and choreographer, definitely one very “Lucky Guy.”

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