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Posts tagged ‘Memphis’

7
May

Stage Rush TV: Episode 12

Talking points:
  • Tony nominations announced: predictability and disappointment
  • Collected Stories: another well-developed Donald Margulies relationship
  • Stuffed and Unstrung: foul-mouthed, hysterical puppets without a script
  • Enron’s producers act hastily and close the show
  • Broadway grosses
What do you think, Rushers? What are your reactions to the Tony nominations? Do you think the Best Score category should have been eliminated this year? Do you think Memphis is a worthy opponent for Fela? Do you think the producers of Enron are acting too fast by closing the show? Leave your thoughts, questions, and suggestions in the comments!
22
Apr

Review: Million Dollar Quartet

The fact that two musicals have opened on Broadway this season that focus on 1950s rock and roll in Memphis speaks greatly to the current creative drought in musical theater. Or maybe it speaks to the gatekeepers of Broadway and their resistance to take creative chances. Either way, Million Dollar Quartet, trailing the first rock and roll musical of the season—Memphis, is a play-it-safe show that employs some incredibly smart strategies to escort its audience out of the theater grinning. These choices, I’m sure, will make the production a commercial success.
The story takes places over the course of just a few hours on December 4, 1956 at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. The true backstory is that Sun Records founder Sam Phillips has invited Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis for a recording session. It would be the only time these four rock and roll gods would ever play together. Eighty percent of the show is this jam session with some light (and I do mean light) banter and relations between the musicians. For the show’s only dramatic backbone, Phillips, who has recently sold Presley to RCA to keep his fledgling record company afloat, is preparing to resign Cash for another three years. What Phillips doesn’t know is that Cash is on his way to break the news to him that he’s already signed with Columbia Records.
The main aspect of this show is the simulated performances of these rock and roll greats, and that part is right on the money. The four actors who play Presley, Cash, Perkins, and Lewis (Eddie Clendening, Lance Guest, Robert Britton Lyons, and Levi Kreis, respectively) are the show’s orchestra. Their instrumentals and vocals are incredibly strong. Their performances of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Hound Dog,” and “See You Later Alligator” are fire-breathing rock and roll spectacles. Quartet holds up as well as it does because of the acute musical talent of these performers. It doesn’t have a lot else to ride on. Read more »
2
Apr

Stage Rush TV: Episode 7


Talking points: 
Have you seen Bryan Fenkart go on for Huey in Memphis? Have you won the American Idiot ticket lotto yet? Do you plan on trying your luck at it? Do you think Hunter Foster should not have taken a non-singing role in a Broadway musical? Please leave any questions or suggestions for topics in the comments!
31
Mar

Understudy Hall: ‘Memphis’’s Bryan Fenkart is worth teaching how to dance

While Chad Kimball builds Tony buzz for his exhaustive lead performance as Huey Calhoun in the new musical Memphis, his understudy Bryan Fenkart is making a very visible Broadway debut. Having performed the role a handful of times since the New Year, the New Jersey native is getting his chance to bask in the spotlight of one of Broadway’s flashiest male roles.
Growing up in Midland Park, Fenkart wasn’t set on acting. He joined his first high school production on the terms of a lost bet. Yet after the interest took, he studied acting at Rutgers moved to New York. With a three-year stint as a doorman for the Times Square comedy club Carolines behind him, the 30-year-old has made his way to a different Broadway venue and is learning the lessons of performance-induced amnesia and even how to dance. Yes, after being cast in the role.
You’re making your Broadway debut understudying the male lead in a new musical. How does that make you feel?
It is really an honor. I didn’t train in musical theater, but I do love it and everything I’ve seen. Coming in for Memphis, I fell in love with the part of Huey. It’s everything that you would want, as an actor. It’s a very distinct physicality that’s different from my own. It’s got an accent. He’s got a drinking problem by the second act. Even as an understudy, to be able to have the opportunity to do that is a great thing. Also, to have somebody like Chad Kimball do the role and watch him every night is pretty awesome. I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he brings to that part. He fully immerses himself in it and I love what he does. To be able to watch that and then change it on my own is pretty awesome.
***VIDEO AFTER THE JUMP: Bryan Fenkart would get “beat up” if he wore Huey’s clothes outside the theater.*** Read more »
20
Oct

Memphis

Some great rock musicals have made their way to Broadway in the “post Rent” era. Spring Awakening, Passing Strange, and Next to Normal have all piqued my interest in the evolution of the Broadway musical. With Memphis billed as a story about “the birth of rock and roll,” I was expecting to tack another show onto this list. And I had reason to think so.

While I was standing outside the Shubert Theatre in the brisk October morning air, two people walked by me, noticed I was waiting for tickets, and exuberantly told me what a treat I was in for. This kind of man-on-the-street feedback was surprising to me, particularly for a show that was still in previews. I felt so good about myself! I was the first rusher in line at 9:30 a.m. (come on people; you’re making this too easy!) and only had to wait a half hour to get front row tickets to a show that two New Yorkers thought was great.

The student rush policy for Memphis was a great one. It was the good ol’ two-tickets-in-the-front-row-for-$26.50-each deal. The reason I say “was” though is because the policy was only in effect during previews (Memphis opened last night). When contacted, publicists for Memphis told me that there are no official plans to instate a rush post-opening, but there has been talk of it and it will depend on week-to-week sale monitoring. So I guess that means all you rushers waiting to see this new musical will have to hope the show isn’t a sellout. Memphis sold just over 91 percent of its tickets last week, so the likelihood of a rush being reinstated soon isn’t looking too good. Read more »

8
Oct

“Next to Normal” Ends Rush Policy, Begins Ticket Lottery

In the words of Melchior in Spring Awakening, “HHHHNNNOOOOOO!!” Next to Normal will end its excellent rush policy October 12 and begin a ticket lottery for day-of seats. Granted, this means no more cold, early mornings, but with it comes the uncertainty of seeing the show. I am greatly disappointed by this news, not only because it makes getting rush tickets for the Yorkey/Kitt musical significantly more difficult, but I’ve always felt the “snobby,” we’re-too-good-for-you shows employ ticket lottos.

Let the facts speak for themselves. Hair, In The Heights, Rock of Ages, Shrek, West Side Story, and Wicked all hold ticket lottos. With few exceptions, these are shows that generally sell at least 90 percent of their tickets every week. Shrek is an odd beast in that it hasn’t consistently sold well since it’s opening last December and it also has a (overly-priced) student rush policy. In The Heights was a huge seller for a year after its 2008 Tony win for Best Musical, but has recently dipped to dangerously low numbers (some suspect it might close in January). But Hair, Rock of Ages, and West Side Story are monster-sellers and crowd pleasers, not to even mention the mega-bucks earnings of Wicked, which always sells out the 1,809-seat Gershwin (aka. the largest Broadway theater).

Now in my mind, Next to Normal is the best musical currently on Broadway. But we have to think of this from a mainstream perspective: Next to Normal is no Wicked. The show has been on a massive high from its Tony wins, but attendance has slipped to the high 80s in recent weeks (still strong, but a decline nonetheless). And Broadway’s prized theatergoers—families with kids—are not going to see this show. And there is nothing wrong with that. Next to Normal caters to theatergoers who aren’t afraid of a dark, depressing, thought-provoking show. But this is not the show to start a ticket lottery with. As much as I’d hate to see its sales suffer, I would be surprised if it maintains its current momentum into the post-holiday winter.

Lotteries are for shows—such as Wicked and Hair—that have certain longevity. But if recent trends have taught us anything, is anything on Broadway certain?

What do you think, Stage Rushers? Are you happy about this new lotto policy for Next to Normal, or are you clenching your fists in an anguished grip?

PS: In perusing the updated show rush policies, I noticed that the new musical Memphis, currently in previews, has a rush policy “in effect only for preview performances.” Memphis, I really want to see you; I do. But let’s not play the we-can’t-have-a-rush-policy-because-we’re-going-to-be-too-popular card until we’ve opened, shall we?