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'Memphis' at Actors' Playhouse Euphoric

My Feet Are Dancing, My Soul Is Singing


Gabrielle Graham and Chaz Rose

Photographer:

Gabrielle Graham and Chaz Rose

Roger Martin, ATCA

Call the medics. Punch 911. You're gonna be infected. With pleasure.

But only if you're lucky enough to be breathing the sweet, sweet air of Actors' Playhouse for its music and dancing and singing and acting will have you in downtown 1950s Memphis, commonly known as euphoria.

There's this skinny white kid, lurching his stance and sniffing his sinus mode, with more tics than Saint Vitus and a voice and a charm that'll maybe have him a super star for years to come. He's Eddie Egan, playing the hero, Huey Calhoun.

Eddie Egan creates a character you just want to mother, be you Mom or Dad.

Calhoun is based on real life Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips: a clip from Phillips' Red Hot and Blue radio show aired from his hospital bed following an auto crash.

Ain't no doubt about it, “Memphis” is a race musical, and that's just fine, white guy loves black girl, his Mama (Margot Moreland) is duly horrified, in a book that's a little clichéd but with music that's anything but. There are twenty-one stand up and shout musical numbers, from the basement clubs of Memphis to Manhattan's TV studios.

Hey, it's the birth of rock n roll.

Photo: Alberto Romeu.

Photographer:

Photo: Alberto Romeu.

“Memphis' won four Tony Awards: best musical, score, orchestration and book, back in 2010 and its only gotten better with age, especially here at Actors' Playhouse.

The reason? Performers like Gabrielle Graham, who, with her big, beautiful voice is the irresistible heroine, Felicia. Chaz Rose is Delray, her brother with a very large chip about Huey, the afore mentioned Margot Moreland is Mama and my, how she belts. David Berry is Gator with his standout song Say a Prayer, Mark Sanders is Mr. Williams, and Jerrial T. Young is the shape shifting Bobby. Great stuff, everyone? For sure.

And of course there's an ensemble, all triple threats, dancing their arms and legs off to Ron Hutchins' blistering choreography: J.Case, Lauren Didato, Kayla Fischl, Alexandra Grant, Noel Harris, Whitney Renee Hickman, Cherise James, Taylor Hilt Mitchell, Janna Morrison, Allan Napier, Amani Pope, Andrew Rodrigues-Triana, Robbie Smith, Alexandra Van Hasselt, Conor Walton, Gabriella Whiting, Shanna L. Woods.

Joe DiPietro wrote the book and lyrics and David Bryan the music and lyrics,

Photo: Alberto Romeu.

Photographer:

Photo: Alberto Romeu.

And speaking of the music, David Nagy is not only the musical director, he also conducts and plays piano in an orchestra larger than the entire population of East Podunk. There's Karen Nagy on keyboard II, Rupert Ziawinsky/Martha Spangler bass, George Mazzeo drums, Sandy Poltarack guitar, Andrea Gilbert reed I, Gary Gottfried reed II, Chas Reskin trumpet, and Jason Pyle/Steve Sigmund trombone. Actors' had to bring the contractors in after opening night because these guys blew the roof off.

David Arisco directed and that says it all. He's been doing it for 31 years for Actors' Playhouse. How fortunate they are.

Eddie Egan and Gabrielle Graham

Photographer:

Eddie Egan and Gabrielle Graham

Tim Bennett designed the flexible two tiered set, Eric Nelson the lighting (I'd love to see a little less of the "artistic" and more of the "let's see without the filters"), Shaun Mitchell the sound and terrific projection design, Ellis Tillman the costumes, and set dressing and properties by Jodi Dellaventura. Wigs by Gerard Kelly.

“Memphis” plays through April 7 at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables.

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