‘Barbie’ star Margot Robbie produces Dayton native’s new musical, opening off-Broadway

‘Big Gay Jamboree’ marks theatrical debut of LuckyChap, a production company co-founded by Robbie.



Dayton native Philip Drennen’s new musical “The Big Gay Jamboree” will open off-Broadway this fall.

Drennen, a graduate of Kettering Fairmont High School and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, co-wrote the music and lyrics with the show’s star Marla Mindelle, who co-wrote the book with Jonathan Parks-Ramage. Connor Gallagher directs and choreographs.

Set in Bareback, Idaho circa 1945 and written as a pop-culture friendly nod to “Brigadoon,” “Oklahoma!,” “The Music Man” and other Golden Age musicals, “Big Gay Jamboree” concerns Stacey, a woman who wakes up from being blackout drunk only to find herself trapped in an off-Broadway Golden Age musical. The show has been billed as a “big musical comedy that’s pushing the envelope... and the gay agenda” that “is here to make you laugh, make you cry laughing, and make you laugh crying.”



“This show offers a modern point of view in a Golden Age musical,” said Drennen, 40. “It’s a bit of a sarcastic look at musical theatre without tearing down the art form. It’s a huge love letter to musicals but it also pokes cheeky fun at how ridiculous they can be, especially those Golden Age musicals that unfortunately are riddled with misogyny, homophobia and racism. We don’t shy away from highlighting any of that and putting our spin on it. We really get to see those tropes played out next to this foil of a woman from 2024.”

Drennen said Stacey begins her journey very jaded about theater. Stacey pursued theater but had difficulty living her dream, so she resigned to being with a man who could provide for her. For example, one of her big numbers spotlights her reality TV infatuation with a certain Bravo franchise.

“She sings a song called ‘I Want to Be a Real Housewife,’” Drennen said. “Stacey’s dreams have become vapid and self-centered but she ultimately realizes what has always been important to her. In the end this show is about the importance of friendship and self-love.”

Over the past year Drennen has been working on this project with his fellow collaborators and CCM alums, most notably Mindelle, the award-winning creator and star of the off-Broadway hit “Titanique.” He said the score was written in roughly four months and contains homages to Golden Age standards such as “I Cain’t Say No” from “Oklahoma!” and “Always True to You (In My Fashion)” from “Kiss Me, Kate.” However, when the viewpoint shifts to Stacey, her songs arise with a contemporary vibe as previously referenced.

“Big Gay Jamboree” also marks the theatrical debut of LuckyChap, a production company co-founded by Margot Robbie, the Academy Award-nominated star of such films as “Barbie,” “Babylon,” “Bombshell” and “I, Tonya.” At a presentation for the producing team that took place in March, Drennen was thrilled to meet Robbie and is grateful for her support.

“Margot is absolutely lovely and super smart,” he said. “And to have her come in and bring Magnolia Bakery cupcakes in the middle of the afternoon was pretty amazing.”

Prior to co-writing music and lyrics for “Big Gay Jamboree,” Drennen’s first full-length musical, “Charlie and Doggy and the Song at the Edge of the World,” premiered courtesy of TheatreLab Dayton in 2022, written with Skyler McNeely. His songwriting career began in 2010 with his band Astoria Boulevard and their debut album “This is Astoria Boulevard.” In addition to being a private vocal instructor and Muse Machine alum, he is a singer and actor who has toured the world and headlined the Las Vegas Strip. He also serves as executive director of TheatreLab Dayton and is in rehearsals directing the company’s production of “Into the Woods” slated May 16-19 in the University of Dayton’s Boll Theatre.

At the end of May Drennen plans to return to New York for another workshop of “Big Gay Jamboree.” Rehearsals are scheduled to begin in August. Previews start Sept. 14 at New York’s legendary Orpheum Theatre in advance of an opening night set for Oct. 1. Situated in the East Village and dating back to the late 19th century, the Orpheum has housed such classic musicals as “Little Mary Sunshine” and “Little Shop of Horrors,” and was the longtime home of “Stomp.”

Drennen is surprised at how fast this project has accelerated but is thoroughly pleased with being at the forefront of such a promising experience.

“A lot of times it takes musicals 10 years to get to Broadway and here we are in less than six months opening off-Broadway,” he said. “It is really incredible.”

For more information, visit biggayjamboreethemusical.com.

Right Now with Russell spotlights arts and entertainment news every Friday and as news arises. From the latest in local arts to the latest in film, music, TV, theater, awards season and other hot button topics, the goal is to fill you in on what’s new in order to satisfy your entertainment cravings. He can be reached at Russell.Florence@coxohio.com.

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