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'Memphis' brings its award-winning Broadway show to movie screens

Huey (Chad Kimball) sings to Felicia (Montego Glover) in Memphis, the Tony Award winner for Best Musical in 2010.

Broadway Worldwide

Huey (Chad Kimball) sings to Felicia (Montego Glover) in Memphis, the Tony Award winner for Best Musical in 2010.

Broadway is going to the movies this week. Memphis, which won five Tony Awards, including best musical, will be playing on 530 movie theaters for four performances Thursday through Tuesday. Ten theaters in the Tampa Bay area, Lakeland and Sarasota are screening the musical, which was filmed live over several performances at the Shubert Theatre in January and edited into a single cut.

Memphis, with a book by Joe DiPietro and music and lyrics by Bon Jovi keyboard player David Bryan, tells the story of early rock 'n' roll in segregated Memphis in the 1950s. It opened on Broadway in October 2009 and continues to run there.

The national tour of Memphis will start out in Memphis, Tenn., in October and play at Ruth Eckerd Hall in February 2012. After seeing the Broadway production in movie theaters, why bother going to see the road version? Robert Freedman, CEO of the Clearwater hall, is not worried that the showing will "cannibalize" sales for the live performance.

"I'm not worried at all," Freedman said. "Our experience with movie musicals is that it does nothing but help ticket sales. The best example of that is Chicago. Shortly after Chicago was released as a movie, we had the show come into the theater and sold the whole run out. An opportunity like this will really help get the buzz out on Memphis."

Screenings of Memphis are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Tuesday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20. For a list of theaters see fathomevents.com.

More Broadway

• What do critics know? Wonderland got negative reviews, but it still did good business in its first week after opening on Broadway. In the week ending Sunday, the Tampa-spawned Frank Wildhorn musical played to 96 percent capacity at the Marquis Theatre and posted gross ticket sales of $900,426.

• When the Broadway revival of La Cage Aux Folles comes to the Straz Center in February 2012, it will star George Hamilton. He'll play Georges, the gay owner of a Saint-Tropez nightclub.

Sad songs

Murder Ballad had an unhappy opening on Friday at the Studio@620. Glitches with the projections of text and images rendered aspects of the new play by Heather L. Jones more incomprehensible than they already were.

Jones has the seed of a good idea for her play, inspired by traditional folk songs like Tom Dooley or Lord Randall that tell the story of murders. The play comes to life when some of these songs, such as Banks of the Ohio, are performed. Otherwise, this Blue Scarf Collective production makes for a long night in the theater, running one hour, 45 minutes, without intermission.

Set in Tennessee, Murder Ballad is about the aftermath of the Civil War. Menfolk in the play fought for both the Union and Confederacy, though you have to work to figure out which side they were on. Perhaps the missing projections would have helped.

Jones' dialogue is achingly slow and laconic, and the play is full of long silences. Yes, these appear to be mostly illiterate, backwoods people, but are they incapable of speech? Did director Selena Ambush not have any input on pacing? About the only relationship that shows a spark is one between Carter, a photographer played by Adam D. Crain, and Nicole Jeannine Smith's Delia, whose fiance died as a Union soldier. There is also some welcome energy between Davis (Vincent Stalba) and his creepy doppelganger, played by Rolando Ramos.

Murder Ballad (with glitch-free projections promised) has performances Thursday through Sunday. $15-$25. (727) 895-6620; studio620.org.

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8716.

'Memphis' brings its award-winning Broadway show to movie screens 04/26/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 11:51pm]

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