Best known to Broadway aficionados as the author of the book and lyrics for the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002), Dick Scanlan is also an actor and a writer of short stories, a novel, and articles for leading publications.
As a performer in musical theater, Scanlan won particular praise for his hilarious routine as Miss Great Plains in the hit off-Broadway musical Pageant (1991), an affectionate spoof on beauty pageants in which all the contestants are played by men in drag. Scanlan drew tears of laughter from the audience with “her” overly earnest dramatic reading entitled “I Am the Land.”
Scanlan’s short fiction, appearing in numerous literary journals and commercial magazines, consists mainly of stories on gay themes. In 1995 Alyson Publications brought out Scanlan’s novel, Does Freddy Dance, which received glowing reviews and was reissued in paperback in 1997. Freddy, the central character of the story, as a child is an avid record collector – Julie Andrews, who costarred in the 1967 movie of Thoroughly Modern Millie, is one of Freddy’s favorite singers. In due course Freddy moves to New York and joins the theatrical community, suffers the loss of his lover to AIDS, and endures. A selection from Does Freddy Dance, “Banking Hours,” is included in Brian Bouldrey’s inaugural anthology of Best American Gay Fiction (Little, Brown, 1996), along with pieces by Edmund White and Michael Cunningham. Scanlan has also written non-fiction articles for The New York Times, The Village Voice, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Advocate, Playboy, and Theatre Week.
In his most successful venture so far, Scanlan collaborated with composer Jeanine Tesori to turn Thoroughly Modern Millie into a musical (2002). The plot, set in 1922, follows the Kansas-grown Millie (played on Broadway by Sutton Foster, who snagged a Tony® for her performance), to New York City, where she intends to bag a rich husband, but encounters a series of big-city adventures and misadventures instead. The show won multiple Tony Awards®, including Best Musical, as well as multiple Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding New Musical. Scanlan earned Tony® and Drama Desk nominations for his book and lyrics, as well as Olivier and Grammy Award nods. Millie ran for over two years on Broadway and almost three years on tour, traveled to London’s West End, and has since received hundreds of productions at regional, community, college, and high school theatres all over the world.
Scanlan and Tesori also collaborated on “The Girl in 14G,” a song they wrote for Kristin Chenoweth’s debut album, Let Yourself Go. “14G” has become one of Chenoweth’s most popular songs, and she has performed it in prestigious venues around the world, including the Disney Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall, and the Metropolitan Opera House.
In 2008 Scanlan collaborated with Sherie Rene Scott on You May Now Worship Me (2008), a benefit for the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative of the Actors Fund. You May Now Worship Me was reborn under the title Everyday Rapture, a critically acclaimed musical that premiered Off-Broadway at Second Stage in 2009 and opened for a limited engagement on Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre by the Roundabout Theatre Company on April 29, 2010. Dick Scanlan received Tony®, Drama Desk, and Lortel nominations for his work on the show.