- Published on Friday, 10 May 2013 11:36
- Written by Martin D Goodkin
It is the early 1950s in Memphis, Tennessee, when black and white people were separate and unequal. It was also a time when ‘colored’ music, eventually to be called rock ‘n roll, was filtering into the white world of radio and TV, being taken over by the latter. Huey (Bryan Fenkart), an illiterate white man, falls in love with rock music and Felicia (Felicia Boswell), a black singer, who sings in her brother Delray’s (Horace Rogers) nightclub. Huey comes into the club one night and is not welcomed until he convinces the club people how much their music means to him.
By a set of circumstances Huey becomes a DJ on a Memphis station making it the number 1 station, with playing ‘Negro music’, in the area. He makes a promise to Felicia come true by having her sing in the radio’s studio. She has to sing it live because Huey’s mother (Julie Johnson), due to her own prejudice, breaks the record that Delray and Felicia had saved money to make. A couple of years later, having become lovers, walking Felicia home, Huey kisses her, after asking her to marry him, only to be spotted by a couple of white boys who then proceed to beat her up while holding him back.
The second act starts with both Felicia and Huey being offered a chance to go to New York. She is all for it, thinking that they will not only become famous but would be able to live together openly without fear which was common thinking among black people then. Huey has become a big star on Memphis TV and loves being a big fish in a small pond while Felicia sees her future as a big star, which she always wanted, if she takes the offer. In a desperate attempt to keep Felicia he kisses her on camera on his show and the repercussions are immediate. Though things have changed since the two first met it would take 2-3 more decades for a black woman to be seen in the company of a white man socially let alone kissing.
With a Tony award winning book and score by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan and choreography by Sergio Trujillo, while directed by Christopher Ashley, the shows keeps moving at a lively pace. The musicians are on stage and visible most of the time while the ensemble works hard whether dancing, singing or backing up the main players. There are two show stopping numbers by supporting cast members. Julie Johnson as Mama has a voice that takes it places you didn’t think it could go and Rhett George, playing the club bartender Gator, has the audience holding its own breath wondering how long he could hold a note and then doing it again. The “Memphis” touring company is a good example of a Tony award winning Broadway show.
Act 1 An hour and 15 minutes Intermission 25 minutes Act 2 1 hour Total 2 hours 40 minutes.
Cigarette smoke, strobe lights, gunshot on stage.
Next stop on tour Orlando May 14-19
- Published on Friday, 10 May 2013 11:27
- Written by Martin D Goodkin
The tale of a boy and his horse in “Warhorse”, though capable of having you shed a tear or two, is the marvel of the puppetry that overshadows everything that takes place on stage. At first you watch the human legs under the material that makes up the animals but within minutes you think you are seeing living, breathing animals on stage and they are as real as the person sitting next to you. The stars of this play are the people moving the horses, the Handspring Puppet Company that made them under the direction of Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones, along with the director and choreographer of the horses by Toby Sedgwick. Though these names may mean nothing to you they are the heart and soul of the show and the horses: Danny Yoerges, Gregory Manley, Brian Robert Burns, Harlan Bengel, Rob Laqual, Jon Hoche, Adam Cunningham, Aaron Hasbell, John Greig and Harlon Bengel, fine horses all. Another remarkable animal is the goose, lead and controlled by, Jon Hoche who will bring a laugh to your face more than once.
The story of “Warhorse” is the story of a boy Albert (Alex Morf) who raises his horse named Joey from a foal and becomes a man due to the circumstances of WW1 and his horse. Joey is drafted into the army and Albert goes in search of him. We follow the adventures of Albert and Joey together and separately. During the play we meet Albert’s mother, the tender hearted but tough Rose (Angela Reed), his cowardly drunk of a father Ted (Todd Cerveris) who is responsible for buying and bringing home Joey, along with friends, soldiers and various women, who both Albert and Joey meet in their journeys through war and life. A standout is Andrew May as a conflicted military man. The large cast of over 30 work constantly, and tirelessly, during the whole production.
The play by Nick Stafford, based on the original novel by Michael Morpurgo, manipulates the audience to tears but it is the horses that hold your attention throughout, aided by the background projection and animation design of 59 productions. The technical aspects of lighting (Tom Schall and Paule Constable), costumes and sets (Rae Smith) are all consistent within the time and period the play takes place. The sound (Christopher Smith) is not as crisp as it was the last show here and makes it difficult, at times, understanding the English accents.
“Warhorse” is an adult puppetry marvel that equals any special effects that you may see on any movie screen but they are performed here by actors making you believe that they are horses, real animals with feelings, and let us not forget the funny goose.
Act 1 1 hour and 5 minutes Intermission 20 minutes Act 2 1 hour and 5 minutes Total 2 hours and 30 minutes
Smoke, strobe lights, gunshots on stage
Next tour stops: Fayetteville, Ark. 5/22 Charlotte, N.C. 5/29 Providence, R.I. 6/5