Musical 'Memphis' to entertain, educate Wharton audiences
The latest production to come to Wharton Center combines entertainment with education for a two-for-one experience.
“Not only is it a great, entertaining show, but it’s got a lot of history in it,” said MSU alumnus Carl Pasbjerg, who is the show’s general manager.
The production, which was inspired by actual events, combines a story of forbidden interracial love with historical happenings that took place in Memphis, Tenn., several decades ago.
The story is set in a time when segregation still was occurring in the U.S. and focuses on a white radio disk jockey who falls in love with a black club singer looking for her big career break.
“There’s a bit of a love story between (the two main characters) set against the backdrop of the racial issues of the 1950s,” Pasbjerg said. “You learn a lot about that period of time and how people were separated and segregated.”
Wharton Center’s Public Relations Manager Bob Hoffman, who already has seen the production twice, said he enjoyed watching it and is excited to have the Tony Award-winning show come to East Lansing.
“All in all, the musical is an incredibly well put together, orchestrated dance,” he said. “The scenery — everything is top-notch.”
Graduate student Tara Dell said the production is one she would consider seeing because of the time and location in which it takes place.
Combined with a compelling story line, Hoffman said the music, which all is original and written by Bon Jovi’s keyboardist David Bryan, adds to the overall quality of the production.
“The songs really were from the soul,” he said. “The songs almost brings tears to your eyes. There’s a lot of passion.”
Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Inclusion DeBrenna Agbényiga said she plans to see a showing of “Memphis” this weekend and hopes to be entertained by the historical lessons the show provides.
“It seems like it would be a very culturally rich show to attend,” she said. “It’s nice that it’s mixing culture and history and bringing those two things to life.”
Agbényiga said students should take advantage of “Memphis” being shown at Wharton Center and the chance they have to be enlightened about an important time period.
“This is a wonderful opportunity that students have on this campus to be able to see this kind of show here and … to look at an aspect of history that sometimes gets overlooked or is only looked at a certain way,” she said.
Dell, who has seen numerous shows at Wharton Center, said she prefers seeing a production of substance rather than one that simply is meant to amuse its viewers.
“I find it a more valuable experience when you actually get something out of it that you can apply to society and what you’ve learned in the past and different events, instead of just something entertaining for an hour or two,” she said.