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Broadway's 'Memphis' coming to a movie theater near you

January 13, 2011 | 11:55 am


With the cinema-fication of live opera, ballet, theater and classical music, what will be left for the movies to cannibalize? Puppetry? Mime?

The producers behind the Tony-winning Broadway crowd-pleaser "Memphis" said Thursday that the show will be filmed in the coming days for distribution in U.S. cinemas this spring. (Specific broadcast dates have not been announced.) Organizers said that it will be the first musical to be broadcast to movie theaters while still running on Broadway.

"Memphis" is scheduled to be filmed at performances from Jan. 18 to 21 at the Shubert Theatre in New York in front of live audiences. The show, which won the Tony Award for best musical last year, tells the story of romance and race relations set against a backdrop of '50s-era R&B music.

"Memphis" opened at La Jolla Playhouse in 2008 in a production directed by Christopher Ashley, the company's artistic director. The musical was previously co-produced by the North Shore Music Theatre and TheatreWorks in 2003-04. After the La Jolla run, "Memphis" was staged at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, also directed by Ashley, before opening in October 2009 at the Shubert, where it continues to play.

The filming of live theater for cinematic broadcast has so far been dominated by the National Theatre in London, which began its NT Live program in 2009. NT Live will present the musical "Fela!" in movie theaters around the world on Thursday, including Hollywood's Mann Chinese 6 at 7 p.m.

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Philharmonic presented its first concert to be broadcast live to movie theaters in the U.S. and Canada, featuring conductor Gustavo Dudamel, and music by John Adams, Leonard Bernstein and Beethoven.

A national tour of "Memphis" is scheduled to kick off in -- where else? -- Memphis in October, with additional cities to be announced later.


Helen Mirren kicks off NT Live with 'Phedre'

The 2010 Tony Awards: From all over the map

Theater review: 'Memphis' at La Jolla Playhouse

-- David Ng

Photo: a scene from the Broadway production of "Memphis." Credit: Joan Marcus