Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Hockadoo! The Final Performance of "Memphis"

Sunday, August 3rd, was the final performance of “Memphis – the Musical” at the Shubert Theater in New York.  The 2010 Tony-winner for “Best Musical” and “Best Score” (written by Bon Jovi’s David Bryan, who made an on-stage appearance after the final number), closed after 1,166 performances.

The show tells the love, life, and personal stories of a poor white DJ (Chad Kimball when it opened, and then  Adam Pascal) and  an aspiring black rock-and-roll singer (Montego Glover) during the 1950s in a racially-charged and highly segregated Memphis.   

I’ve seen many Broadway musicals, but never on closing night.  I had seen Memphis soon after its opening, and decided that I needed to see this again on closing night, so my boyfriend and I headed up to our balcony seats , 6 rows from the last.

I have never been to a show  as emotionally charged as this one. Within 10 minutes, we were completely drawn into the action, along with every other person in the sold-out theater.  And the tears began, and flowed through the entire first act.  I was a little better in the second act – I didn't tear up until the second or third song . . . 

The audience was, in a word, America. And the audience was  a participant in the show’s emotion, not a mere spectator.

Sitting next to my white boyfriend and me was an elderly black man.  An Asian woman with a black husband sat next to him.  A couple of young guys sat behind us, and a racially-mixed child sat just across the aisle, in front of the East Indian family. And that pattern replicated itself throughout the  1,521-seat theater. 

For many of us, Memphis strikes a very deep chord.  Each theme of  racism, hate, fear, forbidden love, poverty, distrust, hopes, dreams, and a sense of one’s  “home” is, of itself, enough to pull at the heartstrings.  Together, those themes weave an incredibly powerful and realistic view of humanity and a  society in wrenching transition.  I only later realized the incredible irony of those messages: at the very time we were watching the final performance, the community of Oak Creek, Wisconsin was trying to make sense of the hateful  slaughter of Sikhs by a white supremacist in their midst.

The final curtain call was an event in its own right, as former cast members and artistic directors joined the cast on the stage, and the audience refused to quiet down.

I am sorry that this show has ended.  It is a show every American needs to see.

I am grateful  I was there. The Finale is embedded below.

Hockadoo, indeed !


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