By now, most of you have probably heard that Memphis the Musical is playing at the Rep in Little Rock. If not, it’s possible you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past couple of weeks. The show has been featured in Soiree, Sync and the Arkansas Times and on KTHV, Fox 16’s Good Day Arkansas, and KATV’s Good Morning Arkansas in addition to radio appearances, a one-song performance at Pulaski Heights Methodist Church and a panel discussion at the Clinton School of Public Service. It’s enough to make one want to shout, “Hockadoo!”
This writer saw the Rep’s production early in its run and will return for a performance during its final weekend. Had she the time and money, she would have gone to more performances, as many as possible actually. The last time the feeling of “I have to see that again” came over her regarding a Rep show was during the 2009-2010 season when Austin Miller led the cast of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She and he became Facebook friends during that run, but she eventually dropped him when she cleaned up her friends list because he had moved on to other cities and other productions and other experiences with other people, all of which she was not a part of, and the magical connection was gone.
What is it anyway about certain theatrical productions that cause people to want to experience them again and again? It’s the same actors, same songs, same plot and dialogue. Essentially, it’s a re-run, right?
Then again, is there really any difference between watching a live stage production multiple times and listening to a favorite song over and over?
The rub with a live stage production, though, is that it is limited–there are only a certain number of performances in a certain amount of time, creating a sense of urgency, and so for two or three or four weeks, someone who has caught the fever of a certain show has to get all she can. For that brief moment in time, she can fall in love with a character or the actor who plays him (or both), can take comfort in the darkness of the theater, can get an emotional release through the laughter and tears of the story, and can file it all away as a memory she will have for a lifetime.
How strange it must be, though, to be a performer sometimes, to have audience members who have a connection to you so strong that they are compelled to return to the show time and time again, to have such a huge impact on someone else’s life for that brief moment in time and yet never even know it.
And how strange it must be to work and live and breathe in a city–to call it home–for that brief amount of time before packing up and dispersing to the next job, the next city, the next set of fans.
This writer often wonders if it is a lonely existence, and the mother in her yearns to invite them home with her for a home-cooked meal, to message their mothers on Facebook to let them know how talented their children are and how proud they should be. But of course, they already know that.
And the young girl that comes alive in her because of the experience she has shared with them longs to take them to Willy D’s where they can all sing and drink and dance together so she can always remember the time . . .
Then again, maybe it isn’t a lonely existence. Maybe the lights and the accolades and the temporary friends and family are enough. Maybe the room service is satisfactory. Maybe hiking alone to the top of Pinnacle Mountain or walking alone along the River Trail is exactly what they want and need.
So why does Memphis matter? Memphis matters because like all live theater, it is a powerful communal experience, and that is something everyone needs whether they are the performers or the members of the audience.
The show closes on Sunday and tickets are going quickly, so if you want to share in the experience, act now. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Rep’s website: www.therep.org.