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Interview with David Bryan on ‘Memphis,’ Japan, Bon Jovi 17 July 2010
The Examiner interview

Source: The Examiner

“How could people be so bad and make me feel so good?” This is a line from “Music of My Soul” from the hit Broadway show Memphis, which won the Tony Award last month for Best Musical. The music of Memphis, based on the first white DJ to put African American music on the radio in the 1950s, was written by David Bryan, founding member and keyboardist of New Jersey rock group Bon Jovi, and a new Tony winner himself (Best Original Score with co-lyricist and bookwriter Joe DiPietro, and Best Orchestrations with Daryl Waters). I spoke with David about Memphis, Japan and Bon Jovi prior to the group’s fourth and final show at New Meadowlands Stadium Friday.

What were the goals in writing Memphis? Did you and co-writer Joe DiPietro say, “All right, we’re going to conquer Broadway,” or did it just develop through its earlier productions starting in 2003?
I got the script from Joe in 2001, and that’s when we started. I read the script and called him up and said “I hear all this music,” and we got together and banged it all out. We did a great story—it was the birth of rock and roll; it was the birth of civil rights, if you will; ending racism; it was a love story—there was a lot things going on in it that really drew me.

Ultimately, everybody wanted to get to Broadway, but I think you can’t get there unless your piece has been worked on, so it’s a journey. It’s a very long journey, and it’s a complicated piece, the musical; you want to make sure you get it right. So we really worked on it and honed it and worked on it, and it’s a very different production now that it’s at the Shubert than the first time out, because I think, you know, we’re better at it, because we looked at it more.

Although he’s based on actual DJs from the 1950s, the protagonist Huey Calhoun’s character is especially rock and roll, sort of like Jack Nicholson with maybe a little George W. Bush thrown in. Did you help shape the character in terms of dialogue or that ol’ rock star swagger?
Joe and I create it, and then we have our director [Christopher Ashley] who takes that to the next level, and then we talk to Chad [Kimball], who tries a couple of things out because he’s an actor. It’s a very collaborative effort, the musical…there’s no right or wrong answer, you just have to try it.


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