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MEMPHIS MEMPHIS
The Musical

Greater Lewisville Community Theatre

Directed By Larry Borero
Musical Direction by Rebecca Lowrey
Choreography by Christian O'Neill Houston and Christina Kudlicki Hoth

Cast:

Delray: Jamall Houston
Gator/Wailin’ Joe: Damian Hill
Bobby: Dwight Taylor
Ensemble/Ethel: Gabrielle Brisco
Ensemble: Tianta Harrison
Ensemble: Bwalya Chisanga
Ensemble/Reverend Hobson: Michael Christian
Ensemble: Timothy Turner-Parrish
Ensemble: Benjamin Bolden
Felicia: Rachel Poole
Huey: Rare Orion
Mr. Collins/Buck Wiley/Gordon Grant/Martin Holton/Ensemble: Jonathan McInnis
Clara/Ensemble: Victoria Lee
Ensemble/Frank Dryer: Blake Seabourn
Ensemble: Camilla Cox
Ensemble: Kathryn Baxter
Ensemble: Taylor Baxter
Mr. Simmons: Kris Allen
Mama: Judy Keith

UNDERSTUDIES
For Felicia: Tianta Harrison
For Huey: Jonathan McInnis

THE MEMPHIS BAND
Conductor/Keyboard: Rebecca Lowrey
Woodwinds: Chase Fowler
Trumpet: Brenton Wolfe
Guitar: Jonny Jung
Bass: Ben Brown
Drums: Randy Linberg

ADDITIONAL PRODUCTION STAFF
Assistant Choreographer: Camilla Cox
Stage Manager: Tianta Harrison
Production Assistant: Hilary Allen
Sound Designer: Danny Bergeron
Property Mistress: Kristin Burgess
Publicity Photos: Michael C. Foster
Sound Board Operator: John Damian Sr.
Light Board Operator: Chris Buras
Dialect Coach: Andi Allen
Fight Choreographer: Jason Leyva
Set Construction: Kris Allen, Larry Borero, John Damian Sr., Eddie Floresca, Tianta Harrison, Edgar Hernandez, Rex Jackson, George Redford, Chris Robinson, Blake Rodgers

MEMPHISMEMPHISMEMPHISMEMPHISMEMPHIS






Reviewed Performance 6/30/2017

Reviewed by Mildred Austin, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Memphis is a musical by David Bryan (music and lyrics) and Joe DiPietro (lyrics and book). It is loosely based on Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips, one of the first white DJs to play black music in the 1950s. The Broadway production won Best Musical in the Live Theatre division of the Golden Icon Awards, as well as four Tony Awards including Best Musical and four Drama Desk Awards.

The Greater Lewisville Community Theatre brings this exuberant musical to life on its stage at their venue in old downtown Lewisville. And there is lots of exuberance to be enjoyed. The cast is competent in their rendition and the audience received the performance enthusiastically.

Rare Orion as Huey conveys both the unstoppable passion he has for the “black music” and the tenderness towards the black singer, Felicia, he falls in love with. He captures as well the quirkiness of his character—truly a square peg in a round hole, and the failure of Huey to fully understand the consequences of his devotion, both to Felicia and the music.

Rachel Poole is Felicia, the black songstress who loves Huey but fully understands those consequences. She rides the wave of Huey’s passion for putting her in front of white audiences but must let him down when she is no longer able to endure the possible fallout from their emotional relationship. Ms. Poole’s engaging presence and capable vocals are undeniable in this role, though her relationship with Huey is not as intense as should be expected and does not match his ardor.

Jamaal Houston as the owner of the nightclub which features his sister, Felicia, as the focal performer is perfectly understated but powerful in his portrayal of the character.

Dwight Taylor is a gem onstage as Bobby, the good-natured customer at Delray’s club and a janitor at the radio station where Huey is later hired. Taylor has a face and energy that lights up the stage and a first-rate singing voice to support that energy.

Damian Hill as Gator and Wailin’ Joe drops his silence like a bomb with a voice that is powerful and emotional.

Bringing the maturity but also the voice of the intolerance of that period to the character of Gladys, Huey’s mother is Judy Keith. Mama doesn’t like what her son is doing but loves him and tolerates his non-conformity. Ms. Keith is convincing and her performance enjoyable.

Multi-talented and multi-tasking in multi-roles (four I believe) Jonathan McInnis takes all in stride, bringing believability to each.

The Ensemble consists of twelve actors, singers, and dancers, some taking roles in the unfolding story of the book. To a one, their energy is contagious. Their dancing makes you want to get out of your seat and join them! They move in and out of the various roles seamlessly and are more than competent in their singing and acting. Sometimes the collective energy seems to overpower the two principals, especially Ms. Poole, but it is an energy necessary to this show.

Mr. Borero takes on quite a challenge is bringing this “over the top” musical to the intimate venue and small stage of the GLCT theatre. Wisely, he allows the energy spill out into the house which is a great way to incorporate the audience in the infectious spirit of fun his actors have created. The stage does, necessarily, become a bit crowded in some of the dance numbers, but the director, along with choreographer, Christian Kudlicki Hoth, judiciously just let the enthusiasm and the music take over. The dancing is fun to watch and makes you want to join in. However, the intensity of the chemistry between his two principals is not equal in its emotional pathos to balance the excitement of the music erupting all around them.

I would be remiss to overlook the contribution of the MEMPHIS BAND. Situated in a sound booth above and upstage of the actors, they provide the zing that lights the fire for the performers below them. The story of MEMPHIS is haunting and underlies the ebullience of the music. A love that isn’t allowed to exist in the real world is slowly but surely becoming unremarkable is our present day. But in the Memphis which is the setting of this show, it was unacceptable and intolerable. This show is a commentary on that fact while providing the fun and excitement of the music that became “rock and roll”. And GLCT brings to their stage a show more valuable than the price of a ticket.