Simone Gundy ifrom TUTS' Spotlight Under the Stars event.
Simone Gundy ifrom TUTS' Spotlight Under the Stars event.
Photo courtesy of Theatre Under the Stars

Memphis Explores Race, Love and Secrets

Set in the 1950s South, the Tony Award-winning musical Memphis tells the story of a white DJ who falls in love with a black singer. And no, this does not prompt everyone to break into the Hallelujah chorus. Wrong place, wrong time and not destined for success.

But bolstered by some strong songs in the blues, soul and rock 'n roll genres, Memphis isn't all doom and gloom as the two leads discover there are more reasons that bring them together, then should keep them apart.

Simone Gundy plays the Felicia Farrell character in the Theatre Under the Stars production at the Hobby Center. She has been in musical theater since she was 14, taking a break in 2016 to work on concerts, but jumped at the chance to audition for this production.

She says she was especially happy that it was a TUTS production, given all the talk of diversity in theater across the country in the last year. "This has always been a home for everybody," she said. Added to that, Felicia Farrell is a dream role for her, she said.

"Interracial relationships are not a new thing and being persecuted or attacked is certainly nothing new. This could really happen in real life. I really think it’s going to resonate with people."

The music is special, she says. "This is very, very true to the gospel, and the rock and early blues roots. This is one of those sound tracks you can really just listen to it you can hear the old school influences."

Gundy has an interesting story about how she got into musical theater to begin with. She had always been in choir but when she got to high school in Arlington, TX, she didn't like the school's choir teacher. So she walked out. (She says as an adult she appreciates what she learned from that director but back then ...)

While walking down the street, she saw a poster about auditions to a show. Everybody was always telling her she was pretty good so she thought what the heck. She not only got the part, she wound up being nominated for a Betty Buckley Award.

After her performance run was over, she says: "I just remember thinking 'This is it. This is what I want to do.'"

Performances of Memphis are scheduled for February 20 through March 4 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-558-8887 or visit tuts.com or thehobbycenter.org. $36-$137.

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