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Stellar “Memphis” at Croswell Opera House (Review) August 18, 2015

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, musical theater, Musicals.
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And yet another rave! Thanks to Jamie Buechele-Beasecker for her guest review of Memphis, the musical at Croswell Opera House!

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This past Friday I was fortunate enough to enjoy the Croswell Opera House’s production of Memphis. This musical is loosely based on the exposure of R&B music by DJ Dewey Phillips in the tumultuous segregated south. This production is, to put it mildly, a success.

I want to emphasize that when the summer season and Memphis were announced, a few eyebrows were raised, mine included. The Croswell promised that this show would be unlike any other, and the hype surrounding this production grew. My fears about the success of this show were completely dispelled on opening night, and the Croswell has delivered on its promise.

The vocal performances by all are consistent and fit the style and energy of the show well, however, there are some performances that are outstanding.

Dan Clair’s portrayal of Huey Calhoun is terrific, both in character and in voice quality. Derrick Jordan’s Delray Farrell is powerful and intimidating. Many other strong performances were delivered by Lydia Schafer as Gladys Calhoun, Ron Baumanis as Simmons, Anthony Isom as Gator, Domonique Glover as Bobby, Charles Waters as Reverend Hobson, and an incredible cast of talented dancers, ensemble members, and character roles too numerous to expound upon.

I saved the best for last. Tatiana Owens. This young woman’s performance is impressive, flawless, and left the audience both completely satisfied and wanting more. Owens’ vocal and character performance are equally powerful, and her telling of Felecia Farrell’s story is 100% believable. The chemistry between Owens and Clair is well-developed and makes the audience root for them, which, in turn, makes the audience angry at the injustice demonstrated by the racist bigotry and violence that has and is occurring in the world.

Deb Calabrese guided this incredible cast to build show-stopping dance numbers, emotional dramatic scenes, and an overall impressive production. Dave Rains worked his usual magic with the balanced ensemble numbers and orchestra. Krage’s costumes are appropriate to the time and hold true to the historical colors and designs of the ’50s, and David Nelms sharp unit set is well-utilized by the cast. Tiff Crutchfield’s lighting design is beautiful and appropriate for the space and set design. The typical sound complications did occur during Memphis, however, this is an issue that regular Croswell patrons expect, and a few poorly timed set changes did interfere with the audiences view at times. Neither of these issues affected the overall stellar quality of this show.

There are moments during this production that are emotionally difficult to watch, and this strongly contributes to the rounded-out complexity of Memphis. Go see this show. Experience the emotional roller coaster that this outstanding cast delivers. During the final scene, I turned around in my seat. What I saw brought tears to my eyes and swelling to my heart. A full house of engaged, excited faces. Memphis is a show that I could not wait to stand up for. This show more than deserved its standing ovation, and I was happy to oblige.

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