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Show Created by NKU Team - BurgerTown - Returns to Highland Heights

A timid fry cook accidentally invents the hottest new craze in the fast-food world - the Triangle Burger - and takes the humble BurgerTown restaurant from its lowly place beneath the tracks to soaring new heights.

How’s that for a high-concept musical?

Northern Kentucky University team Ken Jones (book), Jamey Strawn (music), and Christine Jones (lyrics) began working on BurgerTown a dozen years ago, and it was a hit on the NKU stage not long after.

Now the wacky and endearing musical comedy returns for a July run at Commonwealth Summer Dinner Theatre July 5-23 in a spiffed-up production after being presented across the globe over the last decade.

BurgerTown has been a particular hit Down Under, Ken Jones reports. Jones is the founding director of NKU’s School of the Arts (SOTA) but he’s probably just as well known by NKU summer audiences as the lead church lady in audience favorite Church Girls: Umatilla USA – also a wacky and endearing musical written by Jones, Strawn, and Jones.

“I wonder why we’re so popular in Australia?,” Jones pauses to ponder. The show has also enjoyed healthy interest in New Zealand and Canada.

There’s no reason to think local audiences won’t be eating up BurgerTown, and fans will be interested to see some changes. What hasn’t changed is the basic story: a nice guy is stuck in a place and in a job and manages to do something about it.

The thing is, Jones explains, audiences have changed over the last decade. “It’s just a different time. Audiences had a longer attention span.”

When it was chosen for a summer revival, the team got to work. Ken Jones did some cutting and re-ordering of the book. Strawn and Christine Jones tightened songs. Strawn is re-orchestrating the score.

“Everything is still changing,” Jones said. “We just changed a song last night.”

One thing that hasn’t changed – Roderick Justice returns as shy hero Danny O’Riley, who has to overcome disgruntled customers, corporate greed, and organized crime as he chases success, romance, and a fast-food fortune.

Justice was an NKU student when he starred in BurgerTown the first time. Now he’s producing artistic director of The Children’s Theatre.

Justice didn’t have to be talked into returning to the role, Jones says. “He’s been talking about it for years.” The two have plenty of opportunity to talk. The BurgerTown creative team has created lots of shows for Children’s Theatre, including Snow White and the Dancing Dwarfs and The Day Before Christmas.

Something that’s “re-delighted” Jones when he re-visited the script – a lot of BurgerTown is more contemporary than when it was written. When our hero is challenged by the press, he says the same thing now that he did then – “Fake news!”

BurgerTown, July 5-23. Commonwealth Summer Dinner Theatre, Northern Kentucky University Fine Arts Center, Highland Heights. 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Dinner begins 90 minutes before curtain. Tickets $37. Information and reservations 859-572-5464 and here. Valet parking is available.

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts
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