Reviewed by Joseph Michael Mishler
From My Home Town is an American classic rags to riches story told through classic Rhythm and Blues. This is energetic musical filled with dance and music is currently playing at Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester, MI.
Conceived by Lee Summers and written by Summers, Ty Stephens, and Herbert Rawlings Jr., From My Home Town begins in 1980 with three singers who arrive in New York to audition at the Apollo Theatre. Memphis (Alexander Eliza), Philly (Will Lee-Williams), and Detroit (Tyrick Wiltez Jones) meet outside the theatre before auditions. Each represents the style of music from their respective towns. They all came to New York with the same dream: to become a music sensation.
They tell their stories through song and dance. All three have tremendous range and great voices. Each one has severed their ties with their hometowns. Memphis left behind a gal he was going to marry and an ailing father. Detroit is trying to make his father’s dream come true. Philly wants to be a musician and writer. Together they possess a library of information about rhythm and blues. All three gave excellent performances. The dancing was energetic and very smooth. This trio looked right at home on stage.
The first act is a discovery of reality. All three are called back, but none of them is selected. They do discover that they are all related. First act songs included “Land of a Thousand Dances”, “What a Wonderful World”, “Sitting on the Dock of Bay”, “Working in a Coal Mine/ Chain Gang”, “Walking the Dog”, “Hold on I’m Coming” and many more. It was tough to catch your breath.
Rejection causes these three to almost give up their dreams. Each wants to be a star, but if you can’t make alone, create a group. Philly and Memphis find Detroit and their friendship saves them, enabling them to move on to the next level.
Songs from the second act included “Tobacco Road”, “Have You Seen Her”, “Three Man Groups”, “I Want You To Stand By Me” (Unity – their group theme), an R & B medley of “Give Me Just A Little More Time”, “Who’s That Lady?”, and “Hold On, I’m Coming”. They closed the show with “From My Hometown”. They had found the magic road.
The extremely talented band kept the performance moving. The band included Conductor-Daniel Feyer, Guitar-Keith Fleetwood, Bass- Andrew Lloyd, and Percussion- Nick Matthews. Director Tavis Walter did a wonderful job creating this production. Compliments to the choreographer Jennifer George-Consiglio and dance captain Tyrick Wiltez Jones for their work.
The set was the outside of the Apollo Theatre. Huge metal scaffolding squares covered with handbills were on either side of the Apollo. The background looked like the seedy side of New York. Combined, they helped set the mood and tone for the play. Costumes very clearly distinguished where each budding star was from. The Afros with colorful hats during one of the numbers was a great touch. The white tuxedos with a dash of silver for their Apollo Theatre appearance was icing on the cake.
The standing ovation started during the R & B medley and continued throughout the last number. People were still standing and applauding after the actors left the stage. Not one person was sitting during this ovation. Throughout the play people were moving to the songs and dances.
If you are looking for a wonderful musical, you would do yourself a great favor by seeing From My Home Town. Performances will take place from April 18 through May 13, 2012, at the Meadow Brook Theatre located on the campus of Oakland University. For reservations call 248-377-3300.