Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bindlestickin' New York City: Memphis - Shubert Theatre

I somehow found myself on the guest list for a dinner on the Upper East side of Manhattan earlier this month. I’m not sure how that happened, but I never turn down a free meal so I hopped on a big ol’ jet airliner and got my ass to NYC. I arrived on a Sunday afternoon and like any Tony-loving fellow I decided to kick off my visit with a Broadway play. Book of Mormon was the obvious choice, but it is sold out until 2028 and I can’t plan that far in advance. Spiderman sounded cool, but general consensus is that the play sucks unless you get off on dudes in tights flying around your head. So I went down to Times Square and got in line at the TKTS booth with all the other cheapasses who don’t want to pay full price. I like my culture cut-rate.

Remember the thespians in high school? Well, just like I realized that a career in pro football was unlikely and hung up my stinky cleats after senior year, most of the thespians also realized that a Broadway career was unlikely and hung up their Kabuki masks and got real jobs as singing waiters at TGI Fridays. However, a few of them did not give up on the dream and can be found in Times Square wearing ridiculous costumes in the cold and passing out flyers to the shows for which they were rejected faster than was my application to Mensa. But I digress.

I perused the flyers and decided on Memphis on the basis of its 2010 Tony for best musical, the fact that featured some R&B music and because I’ve had some really good BBQ in the actual town of Memphis.

So, the play. The story of Huey Calhoun, a white dude in the 50’s who starts all sorts of shit for liking, playing and promoting black music. Back then such an atrocious act would be akin to going to Rick Santorum’s house with a plate of deviled eggs. So there’s your story, conflict and protagonist. In the course of getting to the end of the play, they dance and sing a lot. And there are some badass dancers and impressive singers that would make it to Hollywood on American Idol should they ever decide to stoop to that level. I usually hang out at infinitely off-Broadway theatres in which I’m lucky to find a folding chair and an usher not on crack, so I’m always blown away by the talent, sets, and general production value. But the songs were pretty generic, and well, like a musical. Almost as if they were written by Bon Jovi. Or their keyboard player David Bryan. What’s that? You say they were written by David Bryan? I can’t believe I got snookered.

Regardless, I was somewhat entertained, but left the theatre feeling ripped off. Like ordering the ten-piece McNugget and getting home only to find eight in the box. If you want to know why, then I must issue a semi-spoiler alert.

Huey doesn’t die. Huey doesn’t live happily ever after. The damn musical just ends. He should have died. Not because I’m evil and like sad endings. Cracky very much enjoys happy endings. But the story is pretty much based on real-life DJ Dewey Phillips. And Dewey died. Huey should have died. Cracky got had.

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