Eisenhower Auditorium will be rockin’ and rollin’ next week with “Memphis,” the 2010 Tony Award winner for best musical. Loosely based on true events, “Memphis” takes a spirited look at the unique characters and revolutionary ideas that emanated from dance clubs that dotted the southwestern corner of Tennessee in the 1950s. Told through exquisite choreography and with music written by Bon Jovi’s David Bryan, “Memphis” documents the dreamers who had the courage to believe in and necessitate social change, the reverberations of which are still being felt today.
“Memphis” focuses on Huey Calhoun, a white disc jockey who breaks every barrier imaginable by sharing his love of R&B and rock music with the initially hesitant masses.
“This story details the power of music and what it can do to bring people together and how it crosses over from generation to generation across different demographics, which is something that is obviously still very visceral today,” said company manager Colin Byrne, a Penn State alumnus. “Music, especially with the culture of the Internet, really has been able to unite the world. It’s just one of those stories that I think will always be relevant because we will always have someone out there fighting to gain acceptance.”
Also returning to the Penn State community for this performance is 2013 graduate Keely Beirne. In addition to being an ensemble cast member, she is the understudy for Felicia, the female lead.
“It has a lot of fun and loud music, a lot of rock ’n’ roll and R&B,” Beirne said. “It’s very enjoyable and will have you dancing in your seat.”
“The story is still very relatable to what we are going through today, and even though it takes place in the 1950s, there are still themes that are relevant to our society today,” Beirne said.
For her, the themes in “Memphis” are personal, making her role in the musical all the more meaningful.
“My father is white and my mother is black, so this story is especially relevant to me,” Beirne said. “In the 1950s, their marriage wouldn’t have been possible and this musical is able to show just how much our country has evolved. I wouldn’t even have been alive had nothing changed, and I think that it’s great to show a story of a white man who is rebellious and doing something different and going against the grain. I just love how ‘Memphis’ is a story about someone who wasn’t afraid.”