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An off-Broadway production of the musical “Memphis” will stop at the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center (PAC) during its national tour on Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m.
“Memphis,” set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, is a musical chronicling a radio DJ’s heartfelt attempts to make African American music a part of Memphis, Tennessee, despite the racial tensions of the time.
The 1950s was the beginning of many political movements in American history, one of the most famous being the Civil Rights Movement.
“The main character is the first DJ to play African American music on the radio,” Cal Poly Arts Director Steve Lerian said. “It’s controversial because it’s not what white Memphis is used to. He became the DJ of America, essentially.”
The play, which was awarded “Best Musical” at the 2010 Tony Awards, is a fictional portrayal based loosely on a real disc jockey in Memphis during the 1950s.
Lerian said he appreciates a unique perspective on the Civil Rights Movement that transcends time to reach a multitude of audiences.
“The historical elements of the play provide a different inside look into the civil rights movement through the music industry,” he said. “Musicals are always fun. This musical has such high energy and great music numbers.”
On his annual trip to New York City in 2013 to scout Broadway plays that might potentially embark on tours around the country, Lerian was enthralled by the musical.
“I knew it would be something people of all ages in San Luis Obispo would like,” he explained. “The energy was so high and people were up out of their seats dancing.”
Lerian anticipates a varied audience at the show and expects tickets to sell quickly.
“Predominantly, there will be a traditional Broadway audience, which will be a little older,” he said. “Because the music is more 21st-century, there’ll be younger people because they can appreciate this style of music.”
Tickets are available online with prices ranging from $48 to $90.