Cass Morgan Exits Memphis, But Her Heart Finds a New Home

PlayBlog   Cass Morgan Exits Memphis, But Her Heart Finds a New Home
Cass Morgan played her final performance as Huey's evolving Mama in Broadway's Memphis on March 13 at the Shubert Theatre. A soulful actress of a certain age, she was one of the original singing "dinettes" and co-writers of Broadway's Pump Boys and Dinettes, and ended up creating the role of Bird Woman in Broadway's Mary Poppins.

Morgan does earthy, plaintive women like nobody's business, and also got to show off a Big Voice when she originated Mama in Memphis. Her character has the most obvious transformation in the show, and she sang of it, raucously, in the Joe DiPietro-David Bryan song, "Change Don't Come Easy."

In an email, she told, "Memphis has been such a great ride. I've loved playing a character with such a marvelous arc. Supporting characters don't usually get that. Mama starts out exhausted, broke, and fresh out of hope that her son will ever stop messing up his (and her) life. She has bad hair, bad clothes, you name it. By the time she sings 'Change Don't Come Easy' near the end of Act Two, she's got a great new wardrobe, a fabulous hair-do, a nice place to live, and a soulful voice! Most importantly, she has left behind her racist outlook on the world and has begun to see the bigger picture. It's so rewarding as an actor to play a role where the audience thinks it has you pegged, and then you really surprise them with how much you can grow and change in the course of two acts. I leave the show with a sense of accomplishment, and with tremendous gratitude that I was able to be part of something that has given so many people such a good time in the theatre."

We got curious about what's next for Morgan, whose Broadway credits also include Ring of Fire and Beauty and the Beast and Off-Broadway's Floyd Collins and Violet.

She told us, "I don't have any dazzling news. I'm not leaving the show to go to another Broadway gig. This winter I started thinking about not renewing my Memphis contract when it expired, after my 90-year-old mom had a heart attack and a stroke. One of the few downsides of this business, when you're doing eight shows a week in an open ended run, is the inability to be a fully functioning family member. Rochester, NY, is my home town. My sisters are there, and my mom is now in a nursing home there, and I've not been able share much in all of that for a long time. So I started thinking about spending some extended time there — how to do it without wearing out my welcome at my sisters' homes."

It turns out, her time upstate will include some creative work that gives her a home away from home, but near family.

"Enter John Bolton — fellow Rochesterian and Brighton High School graduate! — who suggested I join him in The Music Man at Geva (Rochester's own regional theatre) this spring. The short story is, I'll be playing Mrs. Paroo in Mark Cuddy's production of that beautiful show. I'll have my own apartment, a paycheck, and the ability to spend time with my mom and sisters several times a week, through the middle of June. Sometimes the Goddess does smile down."

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