Where All The Streets Are Paved With Soul: Musings on the Final Performance of Memphis – August 5, 2012

As I had stated in a previous blog entry, the final performance of a play or musical is always a highly emotional experience for both the cast as well as the audience in attendance – the cast always give their heart and soul to that final performance, and the audience always shows their appreciation, so while there is a lingering aura of sadness in the theater, there’s also a comforting blanket of joy. Such was the case for the final performance of Memphis, which ended its almost three-year run at the Shubert Theatre on August 5, 2012.The closing notice had been announced a few months beforehand, with buy-one-get-one free ticket discounts advertised for those few months; nevertheless, I bought my ticket that morning via the TKTS booth in Times Square, obtaining a rear orchestra (right) seat.

As Sunday matinee performances began at 3PM, I made my way to Shubert Alley (after a brief stop to the American Airlines Theatre to purchase a ticket for the first preview performance of Cyrano de Bergerac) and I saw a small group of fans lingering around the stage door to the Shubert Theatre. Many fans carried souvenir posters and had their cameras at the ready, and there was one young woman carrying a large bouquet of long stem red roses, which she handed to each cast member as they arrived at the theater. Some cast members, including leads Adam Pascal, Derrick Baskin, and J. Bernard Calloway lingered outside signing posters, posing for photos and generally chatting with those waiting outside, which I though was a sweet and generous thing to do. There were also signs of appreciation and thanks taped to the metal barricades that were often set up around the stage door, which was also a sweet and generous thing to do.

Some fan-made signs of appreciation and thanks.

Prior to this final performance, I had seen Memphis twice before (both times via the annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Flea Market & Auction), once with the original lead Chad Kimball in 2010, and the other time in 2011 with the current lead Adam Pascal. The basic plot of the show is of the burgeoning relationship between an aspiring white DJ and an aspiring black singer in 1950s Memphis and the advent of rock ‘n’ roll music played on mainstream radio.

There were waves of applause and cheering throughout, as typical for a final performance, not only at the end of songs, but also for the entrances of each of the main cast. The cast gave it their all for the last time, and were rewarded with rousing standing ovations after most of the musical numbers. After the curtain calls, Montego Glover step forward to thank the audience for their support and introduced to the stage several cast alumni as well as much of the creative team – composer/lyricist David Bryan (who is perhaps best known as being the keyboardist for the band Bon Jovi), co-lyricist and book writer Joe DiPietro, and choreographer Sergio Trujillo, which was suitably followed by a jubilant encore of “Steal Your Rock ‘N” Roll”.

“Never let anyone steal your rock ‘n’ roll!”

The stage door was expectedly teeming with fans wanting to give the cast their thanks and appreciation, as well as the usual playbill signing and photo opportunities. Despite the heat and humidity, the crowd outside the stage door, (which exits out into Shubert Alley) remained and giving rousing cheers as the cast came out to greet the fans. There were conversations aplenty, hugs and well wishes for all – there was such an outpouring of love and appreciation, the cast seem overwhelmed. All in all it was a thrilling experience and a fun afternoon at the theater. Memphis does live on, as it is currently on tour, and also on DVD, as the show was professionally filmed last year with the original cast. Hockadoo!

Final performance signed playbill