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PEACH WEEKENDER | THEATRE

‘Memphis’ brings home a rising star

Music of Toledo-native Tatiana Owens, singer-songwriter, a hit

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Tatiana Owens and Dan Clair star as Felicia Farrell and Huey Calhoun in the Croswell Opera House’s ‘Memphis.’ The opening performance is at 8 p.m. Friday.

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When she was 10 years old, Toledoan Tatiana Owens was singing “The Star Spangled Banner” at Toledo Storm hockey and Mud Hens baseball games — a pretty big stage for a young girl.

There are bigger stages for Owens these days.

The 23-year-old singer-songwriter, now living in New York City, is an MTV “O Music Award” nominee whose music has been featured on CBS, USA Network, Vh1, MTV, CMT, and Showtime. She has her own EP, Colorful, and her song “Pendulum” from the Vh1 show Love and Hip Hop was released via Def Jam Records as part of the Love and Hip Hop compilation. And her song “What U Lookin At” has been featured on the ABC Family TV series Becoming Us.

She’s back in this area to play the lead in the Tony Award-winning Memphis the Musical at the Croswell Opera House in Adrian. Opening night is Friday at 8, and performances continue through Aug. 23.

Memphis centers on the romance of Huey Calhoun, a white disc jockey, and Felicia Farrell (played by Owens), a talented African-American singer, in the Southern city in the 1950s, bringing home the brutality of racial discrimination.

Huey, played at the Croswell by Dan Clair, is based on Dewey Phillips, a legendary Memphis DJ.

In Memphis, Huey gets a job as a disc jockey at a radio station in 1950s Memphis and is the first to play music by African-American artists, popularizing rhythm and blues, gospel, and rock. He also discovers Felicia in Delray’s, an underground Memphis Beale Street Club owned by her brother. Huey and Felicia fall in love, despite objections from Delray, played by Derrick Jordan. Eventually, Felicia wants to go to New York to advance her career — but what about Huey?

“ ‘Love conquers all’ is the root of the story,” Owens said in a telephone interview. “And with everything going on in the world today, this is a great story to tell.”

The Croswell production is directed by Deb Calabrese, who was one of Owens’ teachers at the Toledo School for the Arts from sixth grade until her graduation. Owens credits Calabrese with her love of musicals.

The show is full of great music, Calabrese said. “Normally in a show you have a big opening number, a big production number at the end of the first act, and a big finale, but I count eight big, crazy-big, dance numbers, blues and jazz; you go out singing those songs.”

Performances of Memphis the Musical will be at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Croswell Opera House, 129 E. Maumee St., Adrian. Additional performances are at 8 p.m. Aug. 21-22, and 2:30 p.m. Aug. 23. Tickets, $35 to $15, are from 517-264-7469 or croswell.org.

Equality Toledo benefit

Gay Shorts: Short Plays About Our Lives, a benefit for Equality Toledo, will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday at the Moxie, 1205 Adams St. at 13th Street, in conjunction with Actors Collaborative Toledo.

The performance will include short plays, monologues, and poems. Jeffrey Albright is the director. The cast includes Nick Komives, executive director of Equality Toledo, Lilian Briggs, Aggie Alt, Anne Cross, John DuVall, Barbara Barkan, Carol Ann Erford, and Tanner DuVall. Tickets, $10, are available at the door. All proceeds from ticket sales will go to Equality Toledo.

Playwright

Eric Pfeffinger, a Toledo playwright, was one of six invited to develop a play with the national PlayPenn conference in Philadelphia last month. The conference, described as “development heaven” in an article by Jessica Foley in American Theatre magazine, included three days of working with the directors, the dramaturge, and the actors, followed by public readings of the works.

Pfeffinger’s play, Human Error, set in Sylvania, is a comedy about two couples who are going to the same fertility clinic, which accidentally implants one couple’s embryo into the wrong woman.

“What that leads to is the creation of a relationship between these two couples who are as different as they can be,” Pfeffinger said. “One is sort of a liberal, NPR-listening couple from Ann Arbor, and the other is a Red State, NRA card-holding couple from Ohio.” The clinic’s mistake forces the four of them to open their lives and their minds to people they might otherwise never know.

Contact Sue Brickey at: sbrickey@theblade.com.

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