Memphis and Mitt

2012-09-27T11:36:40-07:00Categories: arts, politics|Tags: , , , , , , |

 I’ve got Memphis on my mind, and I can’t think of a better week for it to be there. Not Memphis the city—where I’ve never been, though it is now officially on my must-visit list—but Memphis the show. I know, I’m a little late to this fan party, but I finally saw Memphis at Seattle’s Fifth Avenue Theater, where it is making a triumphant 3-week return to its pre-Broadway launching pad. In 2009, Memphis went from Seattle to New York, where it played more than a thousand shows and won four Tony awards, including best musical. What struck me as I watched, at the fevered height of this Presidential election season, was how much life in America has changed since the early 1950s. And how much it has stayed the same. Memphis tells the story of how Blues music crossed the previously un-crossable radio color bar, paving the way not only for the explosion of rock ‘n roll but for the beginning of the breakdown of segregation as a Southern American institution. How long ago it seems, this ancient time when mixed-race marriages were against the law in many states. How far away, this place where a white record producer could not have dinner with an African-American singing star at most Memphis restaurants. And yet: as those of us inside the 5th Avenue thrilled to the dazzling musicianship, dancing and acting onstage, many people outside that magical zone were glued to their screens, large and small, watching as Mitt Romney tried to explain what he meant [...]