By Dorri Partain, Contributor
Opening at select art theaters across Kansas City on Friday, September 29, Nelly Don, The Musical Movie tells the dramatic tale of a local business woman with a flair for fashion.
The film begins with young Nell (Grace Taylor), who learns to sew by making multiple dresses for her rag doll. Placed with hand-me-downs from her older sisters, she sets out to create her own cheerful designs. At age 17, the part of Nell is taken over by Julie Pope as she moves to Kansas City, meets her future husband Paul Donnelly (T. Eric Morris), and begins her fledgling line of ladies’ house dresses.
As Nell Donnelly reaches the apex of business success, she however encounters various obstacles; her husband’s alcoholism and flanderring, her attraction to a well known political figure, and a kidnapping for ransom that involves members of the crime syndicate.
The film features 20 original songs that help relay the story. In addition to the “Donettes” who encourage Nell through dance, song, and modeling her fashions, her chauffeur George Blair (Jeffrey Robertson), Senator James A. Reed (Tim Ahlenius), and crime boss Johnny Lazia (Mark Sepelveda) add their voices to the score by director Terrence O’Malley and lyricist Daniel Doss.
In uncredited roles, O’Malley appears as a radio newscaster reporting the disappearance of Nell, and Northeast residents Jeff Linville and Jeff Zumsteg appear briefly as guests in the wedding scene that filmed in their home on Gladstone Boulevard last summer.
Pope performs admirably in the title role, handling with ease scenes filled with drama, song, and dance. The musical covers the life of Nell Donnelly from 1899 to 1933, and interspersed with facts about her business and life. O’Malley knew Nell as his great-great aunt and has created the musical, as well as a book and documentary, to keep her legacy alive in Kansas City and beyond.
The unrated film depicts mature topics including suicide. During a limited engagement, the film is showing at the Union Station Extreme Screen, Screenland Armour, and Glenwood Arts. For showtimes and tickets, visit those theater’s websites or www.nellydon.com.