Summer Stages: Spring and Summer Find Theatre Blooming in Memphis
As barbecue fests, music venues, and baseball elbow their way into spring and summer in Memphis, there is still reason for theatregoers to be excited about the arrival of several stagings either taking place or about to take place in the area.
While the legendary GYPSY has Memphis song mistress Carla McDonald exercising her powerhouse vocal cords at Playhouse on the Square, sister playhouse Circuit Theatre is ready to roll up its sleeves and "get down dirty" with Nicky Silver's wickedly dark comedy THE LYONS. Irene Crist and Ron Gephart, two of Memphis' finest performers, star as "Rita" and "Ben." The play will run from May 30 to June 22.
Two summer crowdpleasers follow, with Theatre Memphis' production of Meredith Wilson's THE MUSIC MAN (June 6-29) and Playhouse on the Square's revival of HAIRSPRAY. Summer cries out for fare like this. The more traditional MUSIC MAN, with its ingratiating patter, barbershop quartet, and sweet small town atmosphere, will have as its lead Rob Hanford, probably Memphis' "go to" "song and dance" man. At the opposite end of the musical universe, the fizzy (no, I did NOT mean "frizzy") HAIRSPRAY will undoubtedly prove just as popular as it did a couple of years ago at the same venue; based on the John Waters film, its loopy plot got quite a jolt out of principal performers Courtney Oliver and veteran Ken Zimmerman, reprising their fabulous performances from June 20 to July 13.
New to Memphis stages (and to stages everywhere, I suppose) is Middle Tennessee native Justin Asher's much talked about HAINT. Mr. Asher claims that though there's a ghost in the story, it's not quite a ghost story. Rather, its main character is a healer, forced to reconnect with people after the death of the son who had been her sole connection to the outside world. This play has engendered the kind of excitement previously attached to such original works as CICADA by Jerre Dye, which recently had its Chicago premiere. As the "new kid on the block," it is the one play I'm anxious to see, and those of us in Memphis will have the chance from May 30 to June 16 at the innovative Theatreworks.
Finally, audiences will no doubt have an irreverent laugh with the touring company of THE BOOK OF MORMON arrives at the Orpheum Theatre from June 24-29. This musical by Robert Lopez and that devilish duo, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, should draw frowns from the spiritually frigid and guilty laughter from just about everyone else.