Thursday, September 24, 2009

MEMPHIS Lives in ...

Be prepared ... this could be long ... the coffee just kicked in!

Good Thursday morning y'all and greetings from the humid, sticky, is-it-finally-gonna-rain-already Big Apple.

I actually think Thursday is my favorite day of the week. Maybe its because you know you're more than halfway there -- whoa oh ... living on a ... (go ahead, you can sing the rest...I'll wait) -- to the weekend. Maybe it's because this is the day I generally start making my picks for the upcoming NFL weekend. Or maybe because (at least today) it's payday and I can make a deposit in my better-eat-oatmeal-cuz-a-Jovi-tour-is-comin' account.

Then again, maybe I'm feeling so optimistic this morning because I finally got to see "Memphis" last night. You all know that I've been going on for some time about this show, having heard a number of the songs either online or at Joe's Pub several months back.

Well, as you know ... I'm always brutally honest in my reviews, whether they are good or bad (remember my much-maligned Summerfest review? LOL) Also, I'm usually willing to admit when I'm wrong.

Well, I said "Memphis" was gonna be a big hit ... and you know what?

I was wrong ...

It is gonna be a MONSTER hit.


I had ordered my ticket a few weeks ago but never had the time to pick it up before yesterday. Knowing that the lobby at the Shubert is super-tiny (and hoping it would be packed a bit later on), I stopped by the box office on my way to meet my friend.

I have a special feeling for the Shubert because its where I saw my first Broadway show ever during my very first visit to New York. I was on a high school trip with chorale and while all the other kids were walking around shopping and such, I grabbed a couple of friends and we went and saw "A Chorus Line." And that's when my love affair with this city began. A year later, I returned to play in Carnegie for the first time. The next year I started at Juilliard. Twenty years later ... I'm still here. Haha.

ANYWAY, back to the show. As usual, I'm not going to tell you everything ... because I want you to go see it yourself. Side note: And look, they even made it a bit cheaper for Bon Jovi fans (they must have known a tour is comin' LOL) ...

After a quick drink, my friend and I headed over to the theatre. Plenty of people were milling about as the doors were opening but it was pretty easy to spot one curly-haired keyboard player/songwriter. We got a couple of pictures, chatted for a second and went in to find our seats.

As is often the case, I ended up talking to the person sitting next to me (a byproduct of having done non-profit fundraising for so many years.) It was a young girl who had just moved to the city to study visual arts at NYU and was giddy about the fact that she was able to see so many shows for relatively little money with her student ID. I gotta say ... I hope there are a lot more young people like that out there!

Okay, the show. Dang! I don't even know where to start. There are some absolutely amazing voices (and I'm not just talking the leads), fantastic dance numbers and moments that will make you cry.

Many of you know the basic storyline - Huey Calhoun (a bit of a misfit music-lover) makes waves by playing "race" music on white radio and falling in love with a colored girl. I must say that though it is clearly a tumultuous time -- and the seriousness of that is well-reflected in the writing of the show -- its done in such a way that its not judgmental or preachy (a la the second act of "Into the Woods"). In the end, what really stands out is the music and how music can ultimately bring people together. (Of course, we already know that ... we're Jovifans.)

In terms of the casting, I really can't imagine anyone other than Chad Kimball playing Huey. He's remarkable and plays the character in a way you love him and are inspired by his determination and frustrated by him all at the same time. And for you Jovinuts, I know we've all heard David Bryan sing "Memphis Lives in Me" on the box set. And David, you sound truly great - BUT ... holy %$#& batman, Chad sings the heck out of it and it comes at such a critical point in the show. You will just be blown away.

And, what can I say about Montego Glover? She IS Felicia Farrell. She's got the voice, the looks, the presence. She's the kind of performer/person that makes you stop what you're doing when she walks in a room. When I heard her sing "Love Will Stand When All Else Falls" at Joe's Pub, I was in awe. That was nothing compared to hearing it on stage last night. Absolutely fantastic.

So ... can you tell that I liked the show? Just a wee bit ...

I wasn't the only one. Everyone around me loved it. You could tell by the crowd reaction at the end. Standing ovations are commonplace these days, but this one was well-deserved. And the fact that the audience was singing along and clapping with the cast as they reprised "Steal Your Rock-n-Roll" put a huge smile on my face. I have loved that song from the moment I heard it and can't wait to see if they choose to do it onstage at the Tony's (though "Make Me Stronger" would also be a great production number for the award show.)

Yes, it was previews. And that means there are always kinks to be worked out...but I saw very few. (It's not like when I played in the pit for "Titanic" and they couldn't get the ship to sink ... now THAT was a major snafu!)

In closing, I must tell you... If you love music, YOU NEED TO SEE THIS SHOW. If you don't love music, YOU NEED TO SEE THIS SHOW because there's something wrong with you!! LOL

Okay, I gotta go for now ... you know ... "work for the working man" ... but I'll probably be back later with a few more thoughts.

P.S. The couple before me in line when I was picking up my ticket was hemming and hawing about whether they should buy tickets. (By the way they had a deal that was basically buy one-get one for great mezzanine seats ... hmmm.. must find that offer ...) I finally told them that I had heard much of the music and could guarantee they would have a great time. I gave them my card and told them to let me know how they liked it. I hope to hear from them.

P.S.2. Sorry, Jonny, you got booted to the post-script section today. But ... congratulations to Jon Bon Jovi on receiving the Golden Heart Award at the Project HOME event last night. We've known for years that he has a good heart. And, we all know that he doesn't need or desire plaques or trophies. But, he should just accept this one and be proud of all he's done so far. Us fans certainly are. :-)