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Locally-written musical wins Tony Award

June 14, 2010 8:12:55 PM PDT
The best musical on Broadway has Bay Area roots. "Memphis" won the Tony Award Sunday night in New York, but the road to success has its roots with TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

"Memphis," won a Tony Award for best musical. It began in Mountain View with TheatreWorks.

"The experience of creating any new work is a thrill when you start it at the beginning," says Robert Kelley.

Kelley directed the original staged reading of "Memphis" and he started TheatreWorks 40 years ago as a venue for new works.

"I'm always looking for things that bring music and drama together," says Kelley.

"Memphis" has all of that. It's the story of a white disc jockey, an African-American woman singer, and the birth of rock and roll in Memphis in the 50s.

"A great human story, 'Memphis' totally qualifies for that. Powerful, fun, full of great music," says Kelley.

The production went on to other regional theatres on its way to Broadway. The Tony win really isn't a surprise since TheatreWorks is recognized for its innovative productions that present new voices in theatre.

"I'm hoping we'll continue to get great scripts," says Kelley.

Still, basking in the glow of the Tony Award, they are now working on another world premier that could also perhaps be an award winner.

Carpenters are building the set in the huge scene shop and costumers are getting clothes together for "Auctioning the Ainseys," which will open next month as part of TheatreWorks' new works festival. It is continuing a legacy Kelley started in 1970.

"To keep making the theatre we love, collaboratively, collectively, and to do as much new work as we could," says Kelley.


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