If you prefer tales of the undead the New Moon Theatre Company opens Look Away: A Civil War Zombie Tragedy tonight. Or if you just want something creepy, kookie, and altogether ookie you might want to check out Gorey Stories, a somewhat troubled musical based on the stories and illustrations of Edward Gorey.
Theatergoers looking for something a bit more substantial may want to wander on down to the Hattiloo theater to take in a performance of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf.
Colored Girls—a poem in 20 parts performed by seven nameless black women dressed in every color of the visible spectrum—is one of those plays I always expect to have aged badly. For having been created in 1975, at the apogee of women's liberation and “black is beautiful”— Ntozake Shange's stories of trial, triumph, and tribulation is always disconcertingly up to date.
Personally, I've always thought the characters' ultimate flight into religion was something a cop out for an author who needed to tidy up her more interesting ambiguities but on most occasions even that can't dull the edge of this groundbreaking piece of non-linear dramatic literature.
Also opening at Playhouse on the Square this Halloween weekend,: The Toymaker's Apprentice. Yes, a Christmas show. And that's all I have to say about that.
The August Wilson Center for African American Culture, which opened last month in Pittsburgh, has announced its first theatrical event in the newly completed center: The Aunt Ester Cycle. The show, which runs from November 10 - 22, 2009 "explores the dramatic impact of this legendary character" through productions of Gem of the Ocean, Two Trains Running, Radio Golf and The Women of the Hill, a new work by choreographer and performance artist Ping Chong.
The third character is Mary (Natalie Wilder), Ty’s sister, and it’s a great role for an actress who doesn’t want to bother with hair and makeup. That’s because Mary is barely seen, although she’s onstage from the first scene through the last.
Ty has locked poor Mary in the root cellar, permanently...
Mary is the center of the story, and she’s no shrinking violet. Ms. Wilder makes her a likable smart-aleck, and just as vibrant a character as the two men. Like her brother, she’s enthusiastically foulmouthed, so her best lines can’t be repeated here.
Wilder, a highly regarded local actor, performed on nearly every stage in Memphis before packing her bags and heading out of town. But, monster of vanity that I am, I'd like to believe that the most challenging role she's ever undertaken was playing me—that's right, your pesky critic—in an autobiographical one act play titled Over and Under that City. Sure, the part was originally intended for a teenage male but when Wilder expressed some interest in teaming up with my little theater company I re-wrote the part for her. And, as usual, she was fantastic.
Also, her best lines most certainly CAN be repeated here. So maybe I can convince Ms. W. to play a little game of three questions. Stay tuned.
The National Tour of THE WIZARD OF OZ , which opens at the Orpheum on Dec. 15 is looking for 12 local children to perform the roles of “munchkins.” The auditions are scheduled to take place at the Courtyard Marriott in Collierville, TN. Check-in will be at 9:30 am and auditions will begin at 10:00 am.
BUT WAIT STAGE MOMS!!! The Great and Powerful Oz doesn't want to see your gifted little Pookie. He wants 12 singers and dancers who are currently "engaged in an ongoing study of acting, music and/or dance" to perform "timeless classics such as “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.” The children "will be from an existing group." According to the release no individual kids will be allowed to audition. The selected dancers and singers "MUST" be available for all eight shows between Dec. 15-20.
I've seen dumber musicals than "Memphis," but not many and not by much. This noisy piece of claptrap, which has been rattling around the regional circuit for the past six years, turns the real-life story of Dewey Phillips, a Memphis disc jockey who fell in love with rhythm and blues in the '50s, into a ludicrous fantasy about a white DJ named Huey (Chad Kimball) who puts a black singer named Felicia (Montego Glover) on the radio, thereby driving the local racists crazy. Big surprise: All the black characters are noble hipsters and all the white characters (except for Huey) are redneck squares. What makes the cartoonish premise of "Memphis" sillier still is that the songs, by Joe DiPietro ("All Shook Up") and Bon Jovi's David Bryan, are slicked-up, blue-eyed pseudosoul knick-knacks that have nothing in common with the down-and-dirty 45s that Phillips spun on WHBQ's "Red, Hot and Blue" a half-century ago. Amazingly enough—or maybe not—this howlingly funny irony seems not to have occurred to anyone connected with "Memphis."
Dang. That. Is. Harsh. Oh well, at least everybody seems to like the cast.
It's always helpful to remember that as hard as we may try to be fair we critics develop rarefied tastes and tend to hate claptrap. But there's a reason it's called that. That said, even Broadway claptrap like Movin' Out the Billy Joel Musical and Abba's Mama Mia got gentler treatment.
Memphis' pre-Broadway reviews were mixed leaning favorable. And having heard the showstoppers sung live at an investor's preview at the Orpheum (click for video of the preview) I'm going to guess that Memphis has a decent run in spite of its cool critical reception. Besides, the definitive review won't be in until Wednesday when frequent Memphis Flyer contributor Bo List tells it like it is.
So who doesn't have a Halloween costume yet? On Saturday, October 23 from 9-6 Playhouse on the Square will be hosting its annual costume rental at Circuit Playhouse on Poplar Ave. in Midtown. Prices start at $20 and "large portions" of the Playhouse on the Square Costume stock is available for rental. The Costume Shop at Circuit will be open from 9am-6pm on Saturday, October 24. Now, on with the shows...
CORRECTION: The POTS/Circuit Playhouse Costume rental is actually taking place in THE NEW COSTUME SHOP on Union Avenue behind the new Playhouse on the Square building, which is still under construction. The new costume shop is on the third floor. My bad... There's a whole lotta new at Playhouse and old, old habits are awfully hard to break.
Here are a few comments McCleary made regarding Shakespeare, music, and bringing it all back home.
I went to a Broadway play this weekend with my wife: "Memphis" — it was fantastic. Except for the two songs in it about "Hope and Change." Are Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod calling up Broadway producers now, asking them to help out with the agenda, the way Yosi Sargent did at the direction of Valerie Jarrett and Buffy Wicks?
It sure wouldn't be unprecedented. Look at what the White House has accomplished with "Service Week," all this week on TV as Michelle Obama announced. Sixty programs are incorporating some kind of service or volunteer theme into their shows.
Memphis is about an interracial romance at the dawn of the rock-and-roll/Civil Rights era. The characters "hope" to end racism and "change" bigotry into tolerance. But seriously, who doesn't hate a bunch of service-oriented volunteers?
Sex and race and rock ’n’ roll made for a potent, at times inflammatory, combination in the 1950s, when the new musical “Memphis” is set. But there’s no need to fear that a conflagration will soon consume the Shubert Theater, where the show opened on Monday night. This slick but formulaic entertainment, written by David Bryan and Joe DiPietro, barely generates enough heat to warp a vinyl record, despite the vigorous efforts of a talented, hard-charging cast. While the all-important music, by Mr. Bryan of Bon Jovi, competently simulates a wide range of period rock, gospel and rhythm and blues, the crucial ingredient — authentic soul — is missing in action. Dare I suggest that “Memphis” is the Michael Bolton of Broadway musicals? I do.
Oh well, at least he didn't compare it to Kenny G.
Brown walks out the door just as two new employees join TM's design staff. Guy Lee Bailey steps into
Bailey, who comes to TM from the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia and has also worked at Seaside Music Theater in Daytona Beach, Florida. Kinkennon, a U of M alum, has an extensive resume and has designed lights for various local productions including Circuit Playhouse's celebrated production of The Laramie Project.