By Rob Weinert-Kendt
The conventional wisdom on Broadway today is that you can’t have a hit without a star name or a Tony winner headlining the cast. If it’s a musical, your best bet is a property with some built-in brand recognition, which helps to explain the trend toward jukebox musicals and adaptations of popular films.
Memphis has been a blazing exception to all these rules since its opening in October of 2009. This original musical about the birth of rock’n’roll took the Best Musical Tony the following spring and ran for 1,165 performances; it arguably made stars of its lead actors, Montego Glover and Chad Kimball, each also nominated for Tonys. (Kimball was replaced midway through the run by Adam Pascal, something of a name in musical theatre circles for his originating role in Rent, but hardly box-office gold by himself.) And as it neared the three-year finishing line this past summer, Memphis checked another box in the success column: It recouped its entire $12 million capital investment before closing in August.