Memphis, Musical of Racism and '50s Rock Radio, Gets La Jolla Playhouse Dates; Ashley Directs

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05 Mar 2008

Christopher Ashley will direct <I>Memphis</I>.
Christopher Ashley will direct Memphis.
Photo by Aubrey Reuben
Memphis, Joe DiPietro and David Bryan's new musical about a white disc jockey spinning discs in the segregated South, will be produced by La Jolla Playhouse in the final slot of its 2007-08 subscription season.

Christopher Ashley, La Jolla's new artistic director, will stage the original musical, which has an early rock 'n' roll flavor, mixed with rhythm and blues and gospel. The book is by Joe DiPietro, with music by David Bryan, the Bon Jovi keyboardist. The writers share lyric credit.

Performances will begin Aug. 19 in the Mandell Weiss Theatre at La Jolla Playhouse and continue through Sept. 28. Memphis is produced in conjunction with The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, WA., where it will play Jan. 27-Feb. 15, 2009.

"This is a show about race, rock 'n' roll, romance and how white people stole black music," stated Ashley.

According to La Jolla Playhouse, "Memphis follows the fictionalized life story of a white disc jockey in the segregated south, who started playing black music on the radio. Set in the 1950s, Memphis explores interracial relationships, the power of radio and how music broke down racial barriers."



"What the DJ in our story does is put the music in the exact center of the radio dial," stated DiPietro, "so that anyone could hear it — black or white."

DiPietro co-wrote the international smash revue, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change.

The song titles include "The Birth of Rock 'n' Roll," "The Music of My Soul," "Scratch My Itch," "I Don't Make the Rules," "Stand Up," "Memphis Lives in Me" and "Steal Your Rock 'n' Roll."

Sergio Trujillo, who choreographed Jersey Boys, provides musical staging.

The set design is by David Gallo. Casting has not been announced.

Single tickets for Memphis go on sale March 9. For more information, visit www.lajollaplayhouse.org.