September 13th, 2011
Just bought the tickets, there is no turning back now. On October 15, my wife and I will have the pleasure of seeing our first stage performance at the Orpheum Theatre, a touring professional theatre, located in Memphis.
The play is called Memphis, and it is a musical. At least it’s rock ‘n’ roll.
According to the Orpheum Web site, Memphis the Musical, a Tony Award winning musical, takes place in the underground dance clubs of Memphis during the 1950s, a time when the segregation of race was the norm and rock ‘n’ roll was just taking root. A thrilling tale of fame and forbidden love that was inspired by actual events, Memphis the Musical is about a white male radio disk jockey who wants to change the world and a black club singer who is ready for her big break.
Why are we going? I am taking Theatre Appreciation this semester in pursuit of my degree while using the GI-Bill, and one of the requirements of the class is to go see an actual stage play. I chose this play because I am a lover of everything rock ‘n’ roll, and my wife enjoys a good love story – Memphis the Musical has both ingredients; moreover, the Orpheum Theatre is located on Beale Street. Beale Street is Memphis’ version of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street, so even if the play is a yawner, it should still prove to be a good night.
My thoughts about the show:
The Tony Award winning Broadway musical, Memphis, was performed at the Orpheum Theatre in the city that it is set from October 14-23, 2011. First written and produced in 2003, Memphis, the musical by Joe Dipietro (book and lyrics) and David Bryan (music and lyrics), takes place in the underground dance clubs of Memphis, TN, during the 1950s, a time when the segregation of race was the norm and the genre of rock and roll music was just taking root. With its captivating storyline and incredible music, the sold-out, October 15, 2011, performance of Memphis proved that musical theatre is alive and well in America.
Inspired by actual events, the story of Memphis follows an aspiring white radio disc jockey, Huey, performed by Bryan Fenkart, and an African American, Beale Street nightclub singer, Felicia Farrell, performed by Felicia Boswell, who is ready for her big break. The story begins with Huey being drawn to the music he hears permeating through the walls of a black nightclub, music he describes as the music of his soul. As Huey entered the nightclub that touched him so, a deafening silence fell over its occupants because in the 1950s it just wasn’t normal for white folks to enter black folk’s clubs. Delray Farrell, the nightclub’s owner played by Quentin Earl Darrington, angrily confronts him about his attendance in the club, but Huey is able to quickly convince Delray of his passion for the music, and is allowed to stay; as a matter of fact, he befriends a number of the patrons and is allowed to return to the club in the future at his leisure. It is during his second visit that Delray’s sister, Felicia, captures Huey’s heart, setting them both on a path of forbidden love. The dramatic and loving relationship that ensued weathered the disapproval of family, the ethnocentric expectations of society, and the outright aggression of bigots, but, although their love and admiration for one another would continue, the relationship would not be able to stay the course when confronted with Felicia’s career ambitions and Huey’s stubborn desire to stay in Memphis, TN.
Whereas the story line of Memphis by itself is more than worth the price of admission, likewise that of the 20 songs performed by the cast. You will find yourself reflecting on your own identity during, The Music of My Soul, performed by Huey, Felicia and Company, and later, you will find yourself stomping your feet and clapping your hands to, Everybody Wants to be Black on a Saturday Night. From beginning to end, this sound track of life and love challenges the emotions. Prepare to ignite your passion with songs like, Ain’t Nothin’ But a Kiss; performed by Felicia, Huey, and The Memphis Band; and Love Will Stand When All Else Falls, performed by Felicia and Company, as they magically transport you to a welcome and wonderful moment in your own history of love. Then you won’t be able to help leaning forward in your seat to pray for tolerance and forgiveness with Gator, played by Rhett George, as he sings, Say a Prayer. Amazing songs all, but these songs are just a taste of the brilliance from the totality of the work known as Memphis.
The masterfully written and compelling story of Memphis could be played out as a drama, and the audience would sing its praises. The heart-pumping and inspirational music of Memphis could be been performed as a concert, and the audience would provide much acclaim. However, it isn’t until you combine the wonderful story with the fantastic music that you get the masterpiece that is Memphis, the masterpiece that proves American musical theatre is alive and well.
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