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Memphis Opening in London...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

BWW Interviews: David Bryan, Tony-Winning Composer Of MEMPHIS!

BWW Interviews: David Bryan, Tony-Winning Composer Of MEMPHIS!
Whenever I get to combine some of my major interests in one, it's always a joy. Recently I got to speak to a Tony Award-winning composer who also happens to be part of one of my favourite groups of all-time, whom I first saw perform nearly 20 years ago (obviously, I was very young then).
David Bryan - for it is he, the keyboardist for Bon Jovi - is in London ready for the opening of Memphis, the musical he wrote with Joe DiPietro and which snaffled itself a bagful of Tony Awards back in 2010. Beverley Knight and Killian Donnelly are leading the cast of this American story for a brand-new British audience.
"We started rehearsals in September, I went back home, then came back here and now we're polishing it," he says. "We're here for every inch of it.
"Beverley and Killian are wonderful people. They're sweethearts. I saw Killian in The Commitments, and Bev in The Bodyguard. Killian is a great actor and singer; Bev is a gift from heaven and for her to sing my songs, I'm the luckiest guy on the planet.
"The whole cast - we came over here and wanted to make it special, so we look at the strengths of each of their voices and make it better for them."
So how will British audiences respond to a very American tale?
"That's the question I've asked myself over and over again!" he says. "How will they perceive this? In previews, you can see it. When the curtain opens up, it looks like the 1950s. You really believe that you're in Memphis in the 1950s and you see the dangers of racism, the birth of civil rights, and a love story. We don't hit you over the head with the ugliness - the audience discovers that for itself."
And the reputation of the Shaftesbury as a bit of a graveyard for musicals isn't a worry.
"It actually looks like the sister theatre to the Shubert [where the show played in New York]. It was built around the same time and feels around the same size. For me, Memphis has always been a blessed piece. When I was growing up, there was hate. I looked around and saw that it was so wrong. I got to go round the world with my rock band, and you can bring harmony. When I was growing up, I didn't see a lot of theatre, it wasn't in my blood - but this is an important piece. It celebrates what brings us together. This is an interracial love story. Whether you're black or white you're a human - and that's what matters."
Bryan and DiPietro have also worked together on The Toxic Avenger - a hilarious show revelling in B movies and bad taste, which hasn't made the leap over the pond as yet.
"He came to me with the idea - I thought sure, why not. And he wrote it up and I was like, 'That is so funny, and wrong.' So wrong that it's right. It was fun! It will rear its ugly head again - you haven't seen the last of it."
And the pair are currently collaborating on a show about a female song publisher, set in the 1960s.
"Musicals take, like, seven million years," he declares, then clarifying, "or, like, eight years, so you immediately start working on stuff. So we're stacking them up a little bit - I figured I've got time to do four more, and then I'm dead."
He laughs. Wouldn't rule out more Tony Awards for this rock'n'roll interloper on Broadway, either.
Memphis plays at the Shaftesbury Theatre.


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I am and always have been a Bon Jovi fan. This blog is just my obsession taken a step further, my imagination in high gear if you will. I love to read and decided to see what would happen when I took that love of the written word and ramped it up a bit.

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