The very successful two-person TV/stage/film writing team of Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore will present a sneak peek of its latest stage production — the musical “Man*O* Pause — for two nights only at McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park.
This time, however, the longtime writing partners and Jersey Shore artists are working as a threesome. Their 24th stage production is based on an idea pitched by musician and all-around entertainer Wayland Pickard.
“It came out of left field,” Van Zandt said in a recent telephone interview. “He had an idea for a show: that men go through ‘the change,’ too, basically. And we would write the lyrics and book.
“He’s a brilliant composer and musical director. He works with headliners all over the world and he knows his stuff,” Van Zandt said. “There was just something funny about the idea and we thought, ‘Well, why not?
“Normally, we say, ‘No, thank you.’ We just like it when it’s the two of us. A couple of times we’ve worked with people we liked, but we pursued them,” he explained.
“We’ve worked on ‘Men*O*Pause’ for awhile. Now it’s more of a fun and casual evening, like a nightclub act. Three funny guys and me,” Van Zandt explained in a recent telephone interview referring to Glenn Jones, Tom Frascatore and Jeff Babey. “Rather than wait to mount a whole show, we thought we’d just do a sneak peak of the music.”
Van Zandt and Milmore specialize in double entendre humor and made a career mining it in writing such comedies as “Love, Sex, and the I.R.S.,” “Playing Doctor,” “The Senator Wore Pantyhose,” “A Little Quickie,” “What the Bellhop Saw” and “What the Rabbi Saw.”
They also wrote and performed weekly in the international mega-hit “You’ve Got Hate Mail” at the Triad Theatre (now Stage 72 on West 72nd Street in Manhattan) from September 2010 through January 2015. The comedy continues to be produced in translation around the world.
Both grew up in Monmouth County — he in Middletown, she in Keansburg — before going Hollywood where, between jobs and auditions, they wrote plays that originally were produced by Kathy Reed and Dennis Lynch at The Dam Site dinner theater in Tinton Falls (now MJ’s at the Falls) in the 1980s. They had started acting earlier at the now defunct Barn Theatre in Rumson.
Besides their stage work, the team wrote, created, developed and/or acted in such TV shows including “Newhart,” “Anything But Love,” “Sydney,” “Suddenly Susan,” “The Wayans Bros.” and “Nurses.”
They were nominated for an Emmy Award for their TV special “I Love Lucy: The Very First Show.” They won People’s Choice and NAACP Image awards for the Martin Lawrence comedy “Martin” and a Prism Multi-Cultural Award for “The Hughleys.” Also, they wrote and acted in the feature film “A Wake in Providence.
For nearly 30 years, Van Zandt and Milmore would return to the Shore area, particularly Brookdale Community College in Middletown and produce a new full-length, fully staged, two-act comedy each Spring. It was as predictable as the swallows returning to the Mission San Juan Capistano in March.
But once “You’ve Got Hate Mail” (loosely based on the collapse of Milmore’s first marriage), became so popular and they were commuting from Los Angeles to Manhattan weekly for performances, combined with changes at BCC, plus other issues, premiering an annual show just wasn’t working anymore.
(Both writers live in California. In 2015, Van Zandt sold a second home in Middletown on Brown Dock Road that he shared with his wife Adrienne Barbeau, from whom he currently is separated, and their two now college-age sons William and Walker. Milmore maintains a home in Rumson and currently is married to Richard Vaczy, a TV writer and producer.)
They miss opening shows at the Shore, Van Zandt said. “Man*O*Pause” at McLoone’s Supper Club is a way to satiate local fans.
“These are our people,” Van Zandt said. “We’re still working on the show and this is the first time anyone will see it.”
Friend, musician and restaurateur Tim McLoone — with whom they previously collaborated on “Merrily We Dance and Sing (or the Naughty Boy)” — booked the show for Nov. 16 at his Asbury Park supper club.
It sold out in 24 hours, Van Zandt said. A second night was added on Nov. 17.
Pickard, who lives and works in Los Vegas, is flying in to be the music director. Currently the show includes 14 songs and runs about 70 minutes, no intermission.
“Four guys are talking about the changes they go through at a certain age, myriad issues such as hair loss, weight gain, unfulfilled dream, kids and marriage.
“All men, when they hit their 50s, go through it one way or another,” Van Zandt said. “But men don’t like to talk about themselves.
“I hope, with funny songs on an off topic, men will relate and find it funny while women will understand what husbands go through.”
The goal is to see what works and what doesn’t and take it from there. No costumes, no dance routines, no book. Long term, Van Zandt said, they are looking at bookings in Vegas or on cruise ships.
“They don’t like long shows in Vegas,” Van Zandt explained. “They want people back at the tables.
“If it has universal appeal, though,” he added, “the show could go anywhere.”