Thursday, June 9, 2016

'FEARLESS! The Golden Love Musical' to Bring Music, Dance and Comedy to Cookeville Stage

By Chuck Whiting
MCAU Editor

            COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (June 2016) -- The Broadway-style play "FEARLESS! The Golden Love Musical" will hold its world premiere in Middle Tennessee from July 7-17, bringing music, dance and comedy to the 450-seat Cookeville (Tenn.) Performing Arts Center.

            The show, which features a vibrant cast (including two puppies) and a 21-piece orchestra, will benefit the Putnam County Habitat for Humanity's new Cookeville West End Place Housing Initiative, the Bryan Symphony Orchestra, TTU Tech Players, and the Mustard Seed Ranch for endangered, at-risk children. "FEARLESS!" stars Valerie Connelly, a Cookeville playwright/composer who spent many years writing what some are calling today's version of "West Side Story" and "The Sound of Music".

            The eight-performance show times are 7 p.m. from Thursday-Saturday (July 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16) and 2 p.m. on Sunday (July 10 and 17). Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis for $16 (adults age 18 and over), $12 (seniors age 62 and over), and $10 (students age 17 and under, and individuals in groups of five or more). Ticket sale proceeds from the play will benefit the four nonprofits. CPAC is located at 10 E. Broad St. in downtown Cookeville. To buy tickets, visit or call (931) 528-1313.

            "I'm thrilled to stage the world premiere of my musical at the beautiful CPAC theatre in Cookeville," said Connelly, who describes her play as a wholesome family double-love story.

            Advance reviews and feedback have been strong, with one previewer praising Connelly's play for "provoking toe-tapping, laughter, and tears." The story's characters sing and dance across the stage, expressing 2016 challenges, opportunities, joys and the importance of fearlessness in the pursuit of life, love and happiness.

            "FEARLESS!" centers on divorcee Nikki and widower Daniel, 60-somethings who befriend each other later in life. What does a mother/grandmother do when a man falls for her at this age? Connelly uses playful dialog, heartfelt songs, and elaborate dance moves to bring the two friends and/or potential "Boomer" lovebirds to life. Meanwhile, Nikki's daughter and son-in-law have love-related challenges of their own.

            Connelly's parents introduced her to Broadway theatre at an early age. The artist has worked countless hours to perfect her creation after meeting with a number of highly respected New York theatre professionals.

Valerie Connelly performs songs from "FEARLESS! The Golden Love Musical" (Photo by Hal Alpiar)

            "Producers loved the music, and they made terrific constructive suggestions for the story," Connelly continued. "I took it back to the drawing board and revamped it considerably. I added some songs, changed some others, added more drama to balance the comedy, and in general increased the strength of the storyline."

            The composer/playwright was surprised when the directors asked her to portray the play's lead character, Nikki, after the actress originally tapped to play the character fell ill. As a "Boomer" herself and a professional performer for many years, she is enjoying a return to the stage.

            "'FEARLESS!' feels like a real love story, even though it's a fictional one," the artist said. "It reaches into the heart and pulls on it -- to give the viewer a reason to feel the full range of human emotion."

            The play features a Middle Tennessee cast with educators and students from Tennessee Tech University. "FEARLESS!" will be directed by TTU theatre professor Mark Creter. Other directors include Middle Tennessee State University professor and veteran conductor Mendy Richards as musical director; Jennifer Dotson-Creter of Stage One Dance Studio as choreographer; TTU theatre design professor Colin Forsyth as set designer; and TTU technical theatre instructor Nick Ryan as light designer. The 21-person orchestra includes professional musicians and TTU students who were brought together by well-known percussionist Don Lordo.

            "We have a strong cast drawn from all walks of life with great talent and a terrific will to give their best performances," added Connelly, who realized her dream after raising more than $15,000 through the support of local individuals, businesses and organizations.

            Connelly is a Cookeville-based songwriter-performer, fine artist, film score composer, and book publisher with nine albums to her credit. She is writing her seventh book, a novel. The Cornell College (Bachelor of Arts) and Northwestern University (Master of Arts) graduate joined ASCAP in 1987 as a songwriter and professional performer and has composed hundreds of songs. She wrote her first musical, "Nothing Is Ours But Time", in 1994, and the one-act musical, "Her Story", presented at Cookeville's ART a la Carte in 2013. She has performed and tested many of the songs from "FEARLESS!" at the "Tunesmithing" songwriters showcase in Nashville. Her book publishing company, Nightengale Media LLC, has published more than 200 books for authors around the world. Also a visual artist and educator, she has created hand-carved block printed images and illustrations for gift items and children's books. 

            To learn more about Valerie Connelly and her play, visit


                  Businesses, organizations and individuals have supported the first staging of "FEARLESS!" through sponsorships and donations of cash or in-kind services. Supporters include the following businesses: First National Bank of Tennessee, OUTBACK Steakhouse, Copeland Veterinary Hospital, Tractor Supply, Critter Cottage, Southern Paws Spa, The Outdoor Experience, Market on the Square, WORLD FOODS, Cookeville Bicycles, EXIT Rocky Top Realty, Johnson's Nursery & Garden Center, French's Shoes and Boots, Office Max, Shaffield's Furniture, Williams Wholesale Supply, Magical Music Gallery, LAMAR Advertising, Papa John's, Sam's Club, Fairfield by Marriott, Clarion Inn, Rib City, Kneaded Together Bakery, Del Monaco Winery, Cookeville Budweiser, Liquor World, Bluewaters Equipment Rentals, Cumberland Auto, Wilson Bank & Trust, Skender-Newton Realty, Kroger, Carlen Chevrolet, New York Life/Andrea and Terry Burckhard, Ford Lincoln of Cookeville, The Law Office of Donna Simpson, Hampton Inn & Suites, Party City, Copy Pack and Ship, Poet's, Carmike Cinema, State Farm Insurance/John White, One-Hour Martinizing Dry Cleaning, CPA's Cannon Clark Holman & Associates PLLC, Firehouse Subs, Trademark Printing, WALKER Investment Company Real Estate Development, First Tennessee Bank, Abel Gardens Florist & Gifts, Adecco Employment Recruiters, Belk Department Store, Old Navy, Cookeville Transmission Co., Country Inn & Suites, Crawdaddy's Restaurant, HUB Radio Stations, Stonecom Radio Stations, McCool's Video & Photography, Planet Fitness, TAYS Realty & Auctions, Winell-Lee Mouldings & Hardwoods, Benjamin Moore Paints, Cardinal Computer, Crossroads Music, and Tennessee Technological University.

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