BWW Review: MEMPHIS at The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre
The Long Island theatre community can seriously do no wrong when it comes to presenting multi Tony award winner Memphis, The Musical. Per usual when I see a production at The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at CM Performing Arts Center, I am truly inspired by the talent of the cast and creative team. This wonderful incarnation, directed excellently by Artistic Director PatRick Grossman, runs at the Oakdale venue through February 4th kicking off their 30th anniversary. The cast, the passion, the creative team... everything is top-notch.
The musical by Joe DiPietro and Bon Jovi musician David Bryan is certainly a roller coaster of emotions. Set in the 1950's, heartache, failure, success, and overcoming obstacles abound. It is loosely based on the life of pioneering radio personality Dewey Phillips - called Huey in this tale - who was among the first "white" DJs to play - what they called at that time - "black music".
Huey, portrayed superbly by Long Island theatre vet Bobby Peterson, is a rebel. Huey is one who follows his heart and sticks to his guns for the greater good; this especially since he's trying to promote tolerance in mainstream pop culture. He bursts in on a live radio broadcast and immediately has an impact with the listeners (much to the dismay of the station's boss). Additionally, he falls for Felicia, portrayed exquisitely by Diamond White, who is an up-and-coming singer and they have to sneak around for years due to unfortunate laws.
Mr. Peterson is stellar as Huey; charm and a terrific voice make him a natural for the role. And Ms. White is absolutely extraordinary as Felicia bringing a fierce and stunning performance. Among the highlights are Mr. Peterson's moving rendition of "Memphis Lives In Me" and Ms. White's emotional "Colored Woman" which are enthusiastically received by the audience. Additionally, be prepared for a dance party at the end when the cast gets going with "Steal Your Rock And Roll".
I really could go on and on about everybody in the large cast; they are all beyond talented and you can tell they have become a family on this project.
Not only is the cast amazing, the set, designed by Mr. Grossman, is outstanding as well. It consists of a bi-level stage and moving pieces are interchanged to represent the club that is owned by Felicia's brother (Delray, strongly portrayed by Robins Prophete), Huey's apartment, and various other locations. This is excellently enhanced by Alison Weinberger's lighting and Ronald Green III's beautiful costumes.
And so, Memphis, The Musical is certainly a must see for this season and truly one of the top productions I've seen at The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre. The brilliant cast and a heart-tugging story make for a thrilling night of theatre.
Memphis, The Musical is presented by The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at CM Performing Arts Center of Oakdale, Long Island, through February 4th. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call (631) 218-2810 or visit www.cmpac.com.
By Joe DiPietro and David Bryan, Direction and Set by PatRick Grossman, Musical Direction by Matthew W. Surico, Choreography by M.E. Junge, Stage Management by Amanda Wenchel, Sound Design by Nicollette Carosi, Lighting by Alison Weinberger, Costume Design by Ronald GreenStarring Bobby Peterson, Diamond White, Robins Prophete, Elijah Andrews, Justin Steele, Emily Nadler, Jeff Pangburn, Brendan Noble, Leyland Patrick, Mike Petre, Dondi Rollins, Jr., Jahlil Burke, Joseph Bebry, David DiMarzo, Paul Edme, Sheldon McCall, Chante Hooks, Menyon Harrell, Alicia Bagley, Janelle Primm, Olamide Asanpaola, Frederique Moise, Bertrand Jean, Ashley Nicastro, Gabrielle Farah, Robbie McGrath, Carleen Maro, and Nicole Bianco
Photo by Michelle Demetillo