The Rep’s “From My Hometown”

Americana with Soul

By - Sep 12th, 2011 02:15 pm
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L-R: Maurice Murphy, Jonathan Butler-Duplessis, Mykal Kilgore. Choreography by Kevin Ramsey and Leslie Dockery. Milwaukee Rep photo by Michael Brosilow.

A rags to riches celebration of the American Dream kicked off The Milwaukee Rep’s Stackner Cabaret series Sunday evening. The wonderful From My Hometown winds Motown and R&B classics into the stories of three musically gifted young men with very little to their names.

The three, nicknamed after their hometowns, share the particular dream of playing the legendary Apollo Theater in New York. The year is 1980. “Memphis” (Jonathan Butler-Duplessis) brings the rousing passion of southern music.  “Philly” (Mykal Kilgore) represents an opulent, heartfelt East Coast style.  “Motown” (Maurice Murphy) shows off the richly rhythmic music from Detroit.  They show off their vocal talents in a lighthearted opening segment that also shows regional musical Americana.

From My Hometown, by Lee Summers, Ty Stephens and Herbert Rawlings, Jr., is a fun show, but it has a serious side. The young men are all trying to leave difficult lives behind, and some of the songs (Working in a Coal Mine, I’ve Come to Get It) express that. The vintage music we call Soul was more true to life than we might remember or believed back then. The characters find in one another a solace that allows them to persevere in their journey to the Apollo.

Once these three men finally make it to the auditions at the Apollo, we see what nerves and pressure can do to performers. The audition scenes were as painful and awkward as they can be in real life. But through pitfalls and rejections, the artists persist.  They are there for each other in a family sort of way, and their unity and loyalty are wonderful to behold.

It’s difficult to pick a favorite from Butler-Duplessis, Kilgore and Murphy. When they sing in harmony, they become as one. When they sing separately, your favorite becomes whoever you heard last. It’s natural to root for them and for their characters, and the happy ending is welcome.

Kevin Ramsey directed and co-choreographed From My Hometown. The pace and energy are such that you want to clap and sing along, and the show is formatted to allow you to join in now and then. Sunday night’s audience jumped right in and, in the end, jumped right up for a standing ovation. The Rep really has something, here.

From My Hometown at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $35 and up, depending on the date and time, with a $5 discounts for seniors and a flat $20 student rate. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (414) 224-9490 or visit the Rep’s website.

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Murphy, Butler-Duplessis and Kilgore got the blues. Milwaukee Rep photo by Michael Brosilow.

Categories: A/C Feature 3, Theater

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