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March Madness for Memphis: The Musical

Reporting from the Mainstage: Senior and Visual Arts Major, Isabella L. on the ground to give the inside scoop on all the preproduction details on BAVPA's latest musical, Memphis.


SCHOOL TIME MATINEE:

Monday, March 27th, at 9:50 am

EVENING PERFORMANCES:

Tuesday, March 28 at 7:00 PM

Wednesday, March 29 at 7:00 PM

Thursday, March 30 at 7:00 PM


Ms. Bateson-Brown and Calia Hardy


Memphis lives in me - and it lives in you too! I’m not talking about Memphis, Tennessee, however, I’m talking about the musical, Memphis. This musical takes place in the state of Tennessee in the 1950s. To prepare for this musical's main conflict, Mrs. Wright, one of our BAVPA history teachers, spent multiple days sitting with our cast and showing us ads, documentaries, videos, and pictures about the social climate of 1950s Tennessee. The BAVPA Mainstage will soon be host to this amazing production!

Rehearsals take place every day after school in several different rehearsal spaces, sometimes until 6pm. Ms. Bateson-Brown, one of the BAVPA dance teachers, is our director. This will be her first time in a solo directing role like this. She’s tackled plenty of shows before, including Les Miserable, In the Heights, and the yearly dance concerts. Ms. Bateson-Brown’s stress levels have blown through the roof with Memphis, bringing to life the first licensed musical at BAVPA since In the Heights in 2020.

However, she hasn’t been alone in dealing with her crazy cast of about 40. Ms. Knight and Ms. Stephan have been crucial in making Memphis come to life. At almost every rehearsal we spend an hour or so in the chorus room. At the back of our script binders are the sheet music and lyrics to all our songs. We’ve spent a lot of time perfecting these songs. Leads, like Calia Hardy and Jaden Coronado, sing in almost every piece. Their solo songs have to be the strongest in the show. We asked Calia Hardy, who plays Felicia Farrell, if having so much vocal responsibility in this show was a stress factor. Calia responded, “Honestly, since I’m a vocal major I already have that confidence in my vocal abilities. I’m not too worried about the songs, the songs are actually something that’s coming the easiest to me right now. Yes, it’s a big responsibility, but I'm not letting myself be weighed down.. I’m taking [th

e responsibility] with honor.” The character Felicia Farrell is a singer, and so is Calia!

Jaden Coronado, a fellow vocal major who plays Huey, commented, “I feel like if I wasn’t a vocal major, I’d be very very stressed about the music situation. For me, the most difficult part is the acting portion.”

Calia Hardy and Jaden Coronado


Memphis the musical is loosely based on the story of Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips, one of the first white DJs to play black music in the 1950s. The musical revolves around a young man named Huey in Memphis, Tennessee, who lives with his mother. Throughout his life he found a love for music made by black people. He meets a black woman named Felicia, whom he begins a secret romance with. Huey’s mother, Gladys, doesn’t accept his love for ‘race music,’ and Felicia’s brother, Delray, doesn’t like Huey. In this two act musical, Huey and Felicia must face conflicts around race, culture, society, prejudice, and music.

The casting process for this musical wasn’t what any of us expected it to be. Almost no one had heard of the musical Memphis or knew what it was about. At the very beginning, Ms. Bateson-Brown told us that certain roles had to be played by “white-presenting” people and others had to be played by “black-presenting people.” In the context of the time period, it was pre-determined that the white-presenting characters would have to be racist. It was not an easy task. Karah Anderson (10th grader), one of the white-presenting teens in the musical, shared her thoughts. Anderson opined, “In the beginning I was skeptical, I was like ‘oh we’re doing a racist musical. I don’t know if I want to audition for it.’ Then I took the risk. I want to see where this goes. And I’m actually really glad that I didn’t know because there’s still beauty in [Memphis]. Senior theater major, Luno Coniglio, explained, “It wasn’t that difficult to get into character because… if you know that’s not how you truly feel, you go into it with the mindset that ‘I don’t actually feel this way towards [black] people, it's the character in the 50s.” Everyone’s acting skills were taken to the limit in this production to get through the kind of sensitive scenes and dialogue we have. It’s important to take time after rehearsals to ‘de-role,’ or remove yourself from your role and the character’s mindset or morals. By doing this we can remember who we really are and prevent emotional distress.

Being in Memphis: The musical has been a fantastical bonding experience. The cast can fall back on each other in times of need. Our skills as actors, singers, and dancers have improved dramatically. Being in a high school production like Memphis reminds me that so many majors and departments work together to make things like this happen. In my opinion, the epitome of the Buffalo Arts Academy are the productions! So come see Memphis: The Musical this March at BAVPA!

Alana Hooks and Veronica Kline


SCHOOL TIME MATINEE:

Monday, March 27th, at 9:50 am


EVENING PERFORMANCES:

Tuesday, March 28 at 7:00 PM

Wednesday, March 29 at 7:00 PM

Thursday, March 30 at 7:00 PM


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