Last year, we saw playwright Katori Hall’s play THE MOUNTAINTOP on Broadway starring starry stars, Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Basset. This year, the play is currently at Milwaukee Rep starring super shiny stars, J. Bernard Calloway (our MEMPHIS Broadway “Delray”) and Nikiya Mathis through November 4th.
In the play, J. Bernard plays Martin Luther King, Jr. to whom Mikiya’s character, Camae, shows him how the “baton passes on” when they look forward to the future.
“What does this have to do with MEMPHIS?” I hear you saying.
I’m trying to set a scene here. So now picture Derrick Baskin (Bway “Gator”), James Monroe Iglehart (Bway “Bobby”) and myself getting the opportunity to see J. Bernard play this role at Milwaukee Rep on Sunday night October 7th with Memphis producer, John Yonover. To say it was amazing is an understatement. It’s a pretty fantastical night. Getting to see J. Bernard in this piece was an incredible bonus, but was not the sole reason all of us flew across the country.
“Why are they in Illinois?” I hear you getting real annoyed now…
On the morning of Monday, October 8th, under the utmost secrecy, we drove about an hour out of Chicago to surprise the high school actors currently rehearsing the first high school production of MEMPHIS as part of the Illinois All-State Theatre Association.
Kaboom! There’s your answer.
And so, the baton passes on.
Some background because in high school I had neither a show choir or a football team so the idea of an All-State Theatre production is out of my realm of comprehension. 250 students from around the state of Illinois auditioned to be a part of this production of MEMPHIS. 39 actors, 30 technicians, and 8 orchestra members were selected to be in the all-state company, rehearsing during intense one-weekend a month rehearsals before their January 2013 performances.
Pretty great, right?
We were quite giddy as we got ready to surprise the actors. Basically, I barged into the auditorium and headed for a good spot to set up my video camera. When I was in place, the company was asked to work through “Change Don’t Come Easy” given the instructions to “keep going, no matter what.” You see where this is going, right?
So Emily Fink (“Mama”), Adrian Rochelle (“Bobby”), Eyeri Cabrea-Loos (“Gator”), John Clay (“Delray”), and Nathan Salstone (“Huey”) take the stage and launch into the song with the rest of the company in the audience waiting and watching…just where we wanted them.
The song starts and one by one, the Broadway boys take the stage with their high school counter parts.
I could tell you about it, but why don’t we show you?
More on this special trip throughout the week, so keep checking back in!
**To clarify, this production was made with special arrangements directly with the authors and producers office as the rights to perform MEMPHIS are not yet available. When will those rights be available you ask? To quote the show, “someday….”