Developed by Richard Hopkins and Rebecca Langford
Directed by Richard Hopkins
Florida Studio Theatre's Goldstein Cabaret
1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, 941-366-9000
March 23 to June 5, 2010

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker


Beginning  and ending with title song, Night Train to Memphis explores music and makers of classic Memphis sounds from as early as 1923 through the significant styles of the 1950s-70s.

Though Elvis Presley dominates the array of artists highlighted  (in fact, a "Tribute to Elvis" as written and performed by Carl Perkins is included), there's no shortage of tunes by men who made their marks with Blues, Country, Rock, Rockabilly, Gospel, Rhythm and Blues, even Ballads.

I can't think of another FST Cabaret revue that's been broader in its appeal to audiences of all ages and pop music tastes. Nor one that, without soliciting audience participation, has people spontaneously clapping (to "Will the Circle Be Unbroken"), foot-stomping (with "I'll Fly Away"), and joining in singing (of "Amazing Grace").
Five guys with varied instruments fill the stage. Four also sing:  Dominick Cicco, guitarist and commentator; John Bronston, pianist; Casey Gensler and Eric Scott Anthony, players of several stringed instruments. Eric's the most dramatic in presenting musical stories (his "Chantilly Lace" contains spoken dialogue too)  but he also scores  extolling in song  the  "Pretty Woman" who brings him such happiness.  Tony Bruno deftly handles the drums from a perch off to the side of those who sing.  "Let the Good Times Roll" and "Proud Mary" show off the group's harmony. For Carl Perkins' "Georgia Court Room" Dominick keenly narrates while others assume roles in the minidrama.  He's also commendable  doing "Folsom Prison Blues" like Johnny Cash.
Director Richard Hopkins conducts a fast-moving train of musical numbers with just basic but welcome compartments of information. These cover developments in and qualities of Memphis' music. John Franceschina provides fine musical direction, never overwhelmed by the sound design of John Valines.  Bruce Price's lighting is particularly effective as "If I Can Dream" dims out like a dream fading at the finale.  Susan Angermann's costumes combine casual with full suited and vested attire-a nice surprise. Daniel Silverman stage manages the 95 minute show, which includes a 15 minute intermission without extraneous sound.    

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