A new movie musical brings the story of a Kansas City woman's clothing empire to the big screen
"Nelly Don — The Musical Movie" was written, produced and directed by Terence O'Malley, a local lawyer and the great-great nephew of the real Nell Donnelly Reed. The film opens at several area movie theaters Friday.
Terence O'Malley has been fascinated by the story of his great-great aunt since childhood. It's why he's produced a book, documentary, stage musical and now a movie musical about her.
O'Malley's great-great aunt was Nell Donnelly Reed, a Kansas City clothing designer known for her ready-to-wear line "Nelly Don." But her success as a businesswoman in the early 20th century was underscored by more dramatic details: gangsters, a child born out of wedlock and a kidnapping.
"It's a crazy story," O'Malley said.
"Nelly Don — the Musical Movie" is a screen adaptation of the stage musical O'Malley produced in 2019. It was filmed in Kansas City and features many local actors, including Julie Pope, who stars as Nell Donnelly Reed. She says the story will resonate with audiences despite taking place in the past.
"One of the things that I think is so relevant today and so modern is the hoops that she had to have jumped through," Pope said. "To be the person who was in charge, running the show in the 1920s, 1930s... It's incredible."
- Julie Pope, actress who plays Nell Donnelly Reed
- Terence O'Malley, playwright and great-great nephew of Nell Donnelly Reed