In its first regional Tennessee performance since its national tour, the Broadway smash hit Memphis comes to Nashville. Street Theatre Company stages Memphis as its premiere 2015 performance with its own edgy style. Music City is in for a treat: Memphis showcases Tennessee’s music at its finest. Talented Nashville artists sing and dance to blues, gospel, southern soul, and r&b in this electrifying score, music directed by Randy Craft and choreographed by Bakari King.
The winner of four Tony Awards, including the award for Best Musical, Memphis tells the story of Huey Calhoun (played by Curtis Reed) a young white DJ in 1950s Memphis who falls in love with everything he shouldn’t: rock-and-roll and an incredibly talented Black singer named Felicia (played by Lauren Jones).
Lauren Jones (Felicia) remarked that Memphis is about every “musician, artist, promoter or DJ who dares to make a stand,” whether that stand is for “the struggle to gain commercial respect and compensation for one’s craft…despite the evolution of technology and the seemingly unfettered access to the miracle of music,” or perhaps for simply uniting people through the power of music, as Huey (loosely based on Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips) does when he boldly puts Felicia’s bluesy vocals on mainstream white radio. Bolder still, Felicia and Huey embark on a dangerous and forbidden secret love affair. “[Memphis] tells the story of love through music during a time that seemed simpler yet was sordid with complications of the 1950s racial climate in segregated Memphis.”
Cathy Street, artistic director and STC’s founder, will direct the Tony-winning musical. Street chose the racially-charged Memphis for STC’s stage, believing that “the [racial] issues that have been affecting us lately maybe show us that society hasn’t come as far as we thought,” and productions like this one “help inform and change where we go moving forward.” Indeed, Street Theatre is no stranger to diversity on its stage. Last year the company mounted Passing Strange, a show with an all-African American cast, and Violet, a musical that addresses interracial love in the 1960s segregated south.
“The racial tensions we as a nation still experience regarding misplaced or excessive use of police brutality…reminds us [that] our fight is unfinished,” said Jones. “But just as ‘Memphis music’ brought people to understand one another then, music can do so today, despite any odds. Shows like this help us to keep making music from our soul and to keep looking for talent and stories undiscovered.”
Memphis shows weekends at Street Theatre Company’s new location in East Nashville, Bailey Middle School, from March 13 through 29. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 5 pm. Tickets are available by visiting www.streettheatrecompany.org or by calling 615-554-7414 and prices are pay-what-you-can.