By MARK KENNEDY
AP Entertainment Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The actor picked to play the iconic, baby-faced flapper Betty Boop in a new stage musical is a triple threat from Texas with a contagious laugh.
Jasmine Amy Rogers will star in “BOOP! The Betty Boop Musical” making its debut this fall in Chicago with hopes that it can charm itself to Broadway. It first plays Broadway In Chicago from Nov. 19-Dec. 24.
“Those are huge shoes to fill, but I’m in such a great company. I have so many people around me that are helping me find her and bring her to life, and so it’s really, really exciting,” Rogers told The Associated Press before her official unveiling Wednesday.
The musical is directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, who discovered Rogers while he was directing the musical “Becoming Nancy” at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta in 2019.
“I remember even when she first auditioned for me for that there was something about her — that ‘it’ thing. They walk in and they’ve got that ‘it’ thing and you watch them and you go, ‘That’s the person,’” said Mitchell.
Mitchell is a two-time Tony Award-winning choreographer and director whose shows include “Kinky Boots,” “Legally Blonde,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Hairspray” and “La Cage aux Folles.”
“I was looking for moxie. I was looking for effervescence,” he said. “There’s a song at the end of the first act, and when she sang the song, she just made me cry, brought me to tears with so much joy and so much style. That was it. She completely won the role. She came in and won the role.”
Plus, he added, Rogers has an ability to be vulnerable and a contagious laugh: “She’s got that that crazy giggle that just makes me giddy.”
The musical has songs by multiple Grammy Award-winning composer David Foster, Tony Award-nominated lyricist Susan Birkenhead and a story by Tony Award-winning book writer Bob Martin (“The Drowsy Chaperone,” “The Prom”).
Betty Boop has been a queen of animated cartoon characters since 1930, wearing round eyes, a strapless minidress, with a garter peeking out above her knee and large hoop earrings in her ears. She was introduced in short movies fluttering her lashes and trilling her signature “Boop-oop-a-doop,” a Depression-era bad girl.
The musical’s creators have crafted a story of empowerment for Betty. “The character is one of those indomitable spirits that just can’t be broken,” said Mitchell. “There’s one thing missing in her life, and it’s love. And she doesn’t even know what it is because she’s never experienced it in any of her shorts. So she goes on this journey to find it.”
Rogers said it is important for her to show Betty as a fully-fleshed human being. “I really hope for young women that come to see it, that they they do leave feeling inspired, and they feel seen and loved and heard,” she said.
Rogers is one of many young actors taking on roles that weren’t necessarily created with Black women in mind. “I’m basically casting Jasmine to fulfill the story that we’re telling in this musical,” says Mitchell. “And when you see the musical, I think you’ll immediately understand why I cast her.”
Rogers attended the Manhattan School of Music for two years and left to begin auditioning full time. In addition to her credits are “The Wanderer” at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey and a spot as a 2017 Jimmy Award finalist. She was on tour playing Gretchen Wieners in “Mean Girls.”
“I went to college for two years and that really wasn’t the path for me at the time. And I ended up leaving and I wasn’t sure what was going to come next. And then I immediately booked ‘’Becoming Nancy,'” says Rogers. “So it’s been a dream forever and now it’s finally happening. But I’ve definitely, I’ve been doing it since I was 7, working really hard.”
Betty Boop has maintained a role in popular culture, featuring in the 1995 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the character made a brief appearance in the 1988 feature film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” Fleischer Studios, which created her cartoons, is backing the new musical.
“I always dreamt that I would get to do something like this and bring to life somebody as important and as loved as Betty, but I never dreamt that in a million years that it would be Betty herself. So it’s really crazy,” said Rogers.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits