Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Anxious theater goers waited to see Memphis the Musical since it kicked off its national tour at The Orpheum, but none were as nervous as the Phillips brothers, Randy and Jerry.
"I am looking forward to watching it," said Randy. "I am sure it will meet or exceed my expectations."
They had never seen the production based loosely on their dad, legendary Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips. His character in the musical is named Huey Calhoun and played by Bryan Fenkart.
"He sounds a lot like my dad; his mannerisms were a lot like my dad's were."
Randy's wife Doris of 37 years never met her father-in-law.
"I feel like I know him because I have heard all those stories all these many years, and I think those two are full of Dewey!"
The family had not been told of a surprise FOX13 set up for them, a meeting that left a lasting impression on the family and a cast member. It happened right after the show as well-wishers acknowledged the family. The Orpheum invited the family for a rare back stage tour. They met David Bryan, who wrote the Tony Award-winning music and lyrics, and shook hands with Randy Adams, one of the producers. Then was the meeting no one ever imagined - the fictional father meets the real children of his character's muse.
"I am Randy Phillips, you were playing my dad. You did a great job. You had his mannerism down. It was like bringing back old times."
"I am Jerry Phillips, Dewey's middle son. You did a fine job."
"I really appreciate you coming back," Fenkart replied. "It is so crazy to meet the lineage after all this!"
"Like I was saying, it brought back old memories," Randy said. "I was telling my wife, I wish dad could have been here to see it."
"After how much we listened, I listened to his stuff to capture the essence of it… the endorsement saying we did it well means a great deal coming from you," Fenkart said.
They sat for a few minutes to look over family pictures no one has seen before, like old photos of dad in the hospital. The mementos helped Fenkart bring his character into sharper focus, and created an emotional bond between the family of a legend and his portrayal on the national stage.
Jerry said of his father, "He is smiling right now."