Walnut Street Theatre Presents: Memphis

“Memphis” – A Truly Thought Provoking Chronicle

Who would have thought that a white DJ playing “race music” would take the world by storm one day? Back in the 1950s the term “race music” was used for songs by African Americans who belted out rock-and-roll and blues. Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips took a revolutionary step towards demolishing the color barrier in the world of radio by becoming one of the first white DJs to play such tunes.

Enter “Memphis”…
Inspired by the same theme, Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia is putting on a production called Memphis, set to run through July 12. The staging in one word can be described as being “musically sensational”. Joe DiPietro has penned the script, while Christopher Sutton plays protagonist Huey Calhoun. The plot starts off about how he ends up breaking the same color barrier like Philips.

Similar, yet different…
This is where the story carves its own niche. It doesn’t portray the hardcore partying lifestyle of Philips, nor does it show his death due to methamphetamine abuse. On the contrary, there is a romantic angle involved in this musical – Huey falls head over heels in love with a black singer, Felicia Farell, played by Kimber Sprawl. He begins a crusade of sorts spurred on by his romanticism and search for music of the inner soul. Eventually Huey and Felicia clash as she wants to make her as an artist, while he wants to focus on social progress.

Certainly praiseworthy…
Director Richard Stafford has done a great job in depicting a documentary type soiree, which is a blend of both fact and fiction. Black and white images of Huey being arrested are flashed before the audience, while other montages show him in the lead at a protest and both white and black dancers performing at one of his concerts – these intensify feelings towards Huey and his journey. Special mention must be made about Barbieri’s set pieces and Gail Baldoni’s fantastic costumes aptly depicting the 1950s era. The divergence from the original story has earned its fair share of criticisms, with some calling it a tad misleading since the musical claims to be based on real events, but the dazzling performances more than make up for this tiny flaw. Mary Martello as Huey’s mother is amazing, as is Kimber with her scintillating voice. Huey is also great although he is clearly more in element at the beginning – innocent and passionate about what he believes.

Not to be missed out – get your tickets early to avoid any last minute rush!

City of Angels | Marriott Theatre In Lincolnshire

Real or Imaginary – Which World is Better?

The Marriott Theater in Lincolnshire is poised to host the award-winning 1989 Broadway hit, “City of Angels,” and if the claims by director Nick Bowling are true, the audience is in for a spectacular experience beginning in mid-June, and continuing for the next few months. Set in the 1940s, this musical is touted to be a film noir on stage. Movies such as “Double Indemnity” and “The Big Sleep” were quite popular during that time when crime potboilers ruled the roost, which is why this production is a fitting tribute to those films.

The blending of two worlds…
The plot begins with a young crime writer arriving in Hollywood, full of hope and ambition to ensure his very first book lands on the list of bestsellers. The theme of “City of Angels” is split into two parts – the first depicts the reel world of fictional film, and is in black & white, while the other is the real world where the hassled writer Stine puts in tremendous effort to keep his project afloat. The difficulty lies when the protagonist has to make certain sacrifices to climb up the ladder of success. Bowling touches on this aspect about how much one person can let go to stay ahead in the rat race!

Technical details
There has been quite a bit of experimentation with the lighting and Bowling says audiences will be more than satisfied with the end result. The music is also scintillating as it combines behop and jazz with elements of comedy thrown in. Performing at the Marriott was a challenge in more ways than one because this musical is usually presented on a proscenium stage, but in this case, the team had to work with an in-the-round performance space. Bowling says it was good to put on their thinking caps and come up with something new and full of exciting possibilities to explore in future.

Watch it for the performances!
The cast is superb with two leads being played by Rod Thomas as Stine, the writer, and deep-voiced Kevin Earley as Detective Stone, his alter-ego. Actors Megan Murphy, Summer Smart, and Dani Smith also do justice to their roles. Watch out for the interactions between Stine and Stone as they are packed with powerful, hard-hitting dialogues that dabble with the idea of crossing lines to get something that one really covets.

Ready to watch this musical live? Go get the tickets!

Dirk Arthur’s Wild Illusions Now showing at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas

Illusion or Reality – Can you tell the Difference?

Illusionists have a very difficult job – not only is it nerve-wracking to perform in front of hundreds, but they also need to convince the audience regarding the authenticity of illusions, or else they will be booed off the stage. Magician Dirk Arthur is a renowned illusionist who has been in showbiz for over 2 decades. He has appeared on national television and starred in his own widely acclaimed primetime special “Big Cat Magic” on Animal Planet.

Why is Wild Illusions special?
His show, known as Wild Illusions, at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, consists of some intriguing and unusual cast members – it features grand cats like white, orange and snow-white tigers and African and snow leopards. It also includes a bobcat along with a few birds. Dirk has worked with rabbits, doves, large birds such as emus and ostriches, and exotic cats for a long time, which have helped him to sharpen his skills in this area. People enjoy this show even more as it involves a certain degree of audience participation along with a combination of dance and comic elements.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s a freaking helicopter!

He holds the honor of the infamous “Helicopter Illusion” – Dirk is the first magician to make a helicopter appear out of nowhere. He admits it was (and is) his most challenging trick because conjuring a real, 26-foot-long helicopter out of thin air, on the edge of the stage right next to the audience, is no ordinary feat. It is extremely tough to pull this off as the illusion relies heavily on timing, and a split-second delay can totally spoil the act.

Sharing and caring comes naturally to him…
Dirk is not just an accomplished performer but an avid lover of wildlife. An educational video is screened before every show that covers the subject of preserving wildlife and provides information about endangered species. His goal is to integrate this idea into young minds by working with school kids. All the revenue from merchandise sales at his shows are donated to various animal care and conservation programs, and also used to fund educational programs in schools to create awareness about endangered animals.

To put it in a nutshell, his performance comprises his trademark illusions like escape tricks, levitation of a vehicle, making animals disappear with the aid of sparks and lightening, etc. It is a family-friendly show, so please attend with your kids as they will enjoy it immensely.

Learn more: Dirk Arthur’s Wild Illusions