T he Tampa Bay premiere of Memphis tops the Ruth Eckerd Hall 2011-12 Broadway season, released this week. It will play for a week in February, while the other three shows — revivals of Fiddler on the Roof, South Pacific and Beauty and the Beast — have shorter runs.
A year ago, Memphis won four Tony Awards, including best musical. With a book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro (All Shook Up; I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change; Over the River and Through the Woods) and an R&B score by Bon Jovi keyboard player David Bryan, the show is set on Beale Street in the 1950s. It tells the story of a wild and crazy white disc jockey (inspired by real-life Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips) who gets soul music on the radio and falls in love with a black singer.
Casting has not been announced for the national tour, which begins in October at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis. On Broadway, the show stars Chad Kimball as the DJ and Montego Glover as the singer. Both have been with the production since the first workshops in 2003.
Memphis got a boost recently when a film of the Broadway show was shown in movie theaters. Extremely well done, the screening served as a good incentive to check out the live performance of the musical.
Robert Freedman, CEO of Ruth Eckerd Hall, doesn't think the screening of Memphis in theaters will cannibalize ticket sales. "I think it really gets the buzz out on the show," he said. "I think it does nothing but help us."
John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.