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Lizabeth and I are heading to a Broadway musical Thursday night — not in the theater district in NYC, but right here in the Valley — as Fathom Events presents a filmed performance of “Memphis” at several AMC movie theaters.
You wouldn’t have expected as much had you read an early review of “Memphis” by theater critic Charles Isherwood of The New York Times — who described it in an Oct 20, 2009 review as “the Michael Bolton of Broadway musicals.”
Isherwood decribes the musical as “slick but formulaic entertainment,” but that hardly dampens my interest. If anything, it ups the intrigue factor — already quite high because the music for “Memphis” comes from Bon Jovi pianist David Bryan.
“Memphis” explores issues of sex, race and rock & roll in 1950s America. Seems a white high school dropout stumbles into a black nightclub and wows the crowds with his powerful piano licks — then hits plenty of highs and lows before landing a DJ gig that appears his true calling. Falling for a black singer doesn’t make his life any easier.
The club where character Huey Calhoun first finds his bliss is located on Beale Street, an actual music row located in Memphis, Tennessee — where something called the “Beale Street Music Festival” takes April 29-May 1 this year.
I suppose those who get really inspired when “Memphis” meets the movies on Thursday night can hop a plane and live a bit of Memphis in real life this weekend. Other fab events on the Memphis horizon include a May 2-8 “International Salute to Belgium” and a May 12-14 “World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest.”
Memphis has influenced or been home to plenty of famous actors — from Dixie Carter and Justin Timberlake to Kathy Bates and Morgan Freeman. Also musicians Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, B.B. King and Jerry Lee Lewis (depicted in the musical “Million Dollar Quartet“).
As every loyal Elvis fan knows, Memphis is home to Presley’s “Graceland.” Tennessee museums include the National Civil Rights Museum, the Memphis Rock n Soul Museum, the Memphis Zoo and the Children’s Museum of Memphis.
I have a feeling I’ll want to jump on a plane bound for Tennessee come Friday morning. Thankfully, I’ve got lots of reasons to stick around — including tickets to see the Arizona School for the Arts performance of “Triangle” and the Actors Theatre performance of “Circle Mirror Transformation.”
Come to think of it, perhaps the good folks of Memphis ought to think about coming here to enjoy a bit of Arizona arts and culture…
Coming up: Like everyone else…
Update: We had a great time attending “Memphis” at a Mesa movie theater Thursday night. The movie theater venue lets viewers see actors up close, enjoy behind the scenes happenings and watch interviews with cast/creative team members that they can’t experience during live theater performance. I liked the musical as a story of the difference one person, or a small group of people, can make — but Lizabeth and I agree we’d enjoy it more as a concert or play rather than a piece of musical theater. You still have the weekend to see “Memphis” in select movie theaters. It’s perfect for those who enjoy rock and soul, those interested in the history of the civil rights movement, those who appreciate the marriage of history and music, those who like a lot of dance with their Broadway, and those who want to see what happened when Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan got inspired to write music that might help us all like each other more than we hate each other.