The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
By Virginia Ross
Bundled in puffy coats with scarves around their necks and a few wooly hats, the audience streamed into Memorial Auditorium for the Broadway road show version of Memphis, a fictional history of the birth of rock and roll.
Climbing the winding staircase, I saw gallantry at first hand when one of the ushers sighted an older lady cautiously ascending step by step and went down to offer his arm for assurance. Midwest values are still alive.
The musical, Memphis, is the story set in the 1950s' of a poor white boy in the city who could not keep a job, loved the sound of music being played in black Memphis, meets a beautiful black singer, finagles his way into a job as a DJ at a local radio station. Here he introduces the city to that special "sound." He goes on to present it on local TV, but when New York City Corporate America wants an all "white TV show," he refuses.
His singer girl friend goes there, leaves him behind and becomes famous. All are reunited in the end in a spectacular vibrating number which had this Burlington audience clapping in time.
What about the show in general? Wow!
It was powerful-singers with electric energy with fabulous voices. From the first note sang, the troupe captured the audience.
Zuri Washington's voice, as Felicia, the black singer, was incredible-such depth, projection and beauty. Daniel S. Hines, as Huey, the DJ, portrayed just that touch of craziness needed for someone unique-inventing phrases, shocking listeners, and over looking the then racial barrier.
Staging was accomplished with few props, use of fog/mist, lighting and powerful sound.
The company must be complimented by their success of whisking the audience back and forth between locations just by adding a desk, a table and a few chairs, a mirror, etc. which rolled on and off stage quickly.
The mist/fog allowed the audience to journey to another time and became a part of the action.
The sound reverberated through every cell and we all felt the pulse.
Civic Music by a season ticket is an entertainment steal; even by the single admission it is a bargain.
The next performance will be on March 29th featuring Mummenschanz, a Swiss mask theater troupe who perform in a surreal mask and prop-oriented style; it should be a real cultural experience.