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Corn Stock Theatre
August 26 - September 3
Written by Andrew Harlan

“It broke down all my senses. It made me feel so home. See, I was lost, but now I found the music of my soul.” These lyrics from “The Music of My Soul,” a song in Corn Stock Theatre’s newest production Memphis, set the tone for a cathartic evening of live theatre. Completing Corn Stock’s 63rd Summer Season in Upper Bradley Park, Memphis promises to dazzle audiences with energetic dance numbers, emotional solos, and a moving portrayal of racial prejudice in America’s past. The new musical begins performances on Friday, August 26.

Set in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1950s, the story begins with a young white man named Huey Calhoun (Deric Kimler). When he crashes a party at an underground black bar owned by Delray (Anthony Hendricks), Huey hears the African American community’s rock and roll music, and he falls in love with the new sound. After landing a job at a white radio station, Huey sets out to play black music on the air against the advice of his superiors. When the new music finds an eager audience in American teenagers, Huey’s popularity skyrockets. As Huey’s radio show thrives, his relationship with Delray’s talented sister Felicia (LaTaisha Howell) deepens, despite increasing racial tensions and Huey’s mother’s (Sally Hodge) concerns.

Director Bryan Blanks has paid careful attention to every detail in creating the world of Memphis. To bring his well-conceived vision to life, Blanks has assembled and guided a diverse cast of strong performers, each with incredible vocal chops. A perfect fit for the role of Huey, Deric Kimler carries the production with his natural charm and earnest performance. Kimler’s counterpart LaTaisha Howell, a CST newcomer, lights up the stage with her powerhouse voice, especially in her solos “Colored Woman” and “Love Will Stand When All Else Falls.” As the protective, yet smooth Delray, Anthony Hendricks expertly riffs through his songs, and Sally Hodge wows the audience with her heartfelt moments and powerful voice. Rounding out the main players, Brandon Chandler and Ronnie Hudson shine in their supporting roles. Together with a talented ensemble of dancers and singers, the cast fills the Tent with soulful harmonies and electrifying energy.

The production team of Memphis deserves high praise for their work. Director Bryan Blanks has inventively staged the show’s book scenes on Julie Wasson’s creative, multi-level set design. Music Director Holly Haines leads a thrilling live rock band behind the stage, energizing the entire performance. To the beat of Haines’s direction, the choreography team, led by Sarah Wilcoxon and Lise Higgins, has crafted thrilling dance numbers. Annette Hoerdeman and her costume team have shown off their ability with authentic period costumes and original designs. Further, hair and makeup by Amy Williams and Ayana Pankey, an artistic lighting design by Megan Larke, careful sound adjustments by Jake Sleva and Corn Stock technicians, and props by Erika Poch and Bree Carroll round out the impressive technical and design elements.

Memphis offers Corn Stock audiences a moving story of racial prejudice in America’s past, complete with exhilarating dance numbers, remarkable vocals, and emotional performances. Memphis runs August 26 - September 3, with performances at 7:30pm nightly at 1700 N Park Road, Peoria. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students, and they are available at the box office, by phone at 309-676-2196, or online at

Posted on August 24, 2016