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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 21, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 38
Music in his soul
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Music in his soul

As the Tony-winning Memphis returns to Seattle, we chat with star Bryan Fenkart

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

MEMPHIS: THE MUSICAL
5TH AVENUE THEATRE
Through October 7


Bryan Fenkart is currently touring in the Tony Award-winning musical, Memphis. Directly from Broadway, where he understudied the lead role, Fenkart plays Huey, a man different from his own persona in many ways. But there is one thing they have in common - they both have music in their souls. As Memphis returns to Seattle (where it debuted in 2009), we caught up with the man and his music.

Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a performer?

Fenkart: I've always been interested in singing and writing my own music, so I'd have to say Billy Joel. He was only one between the Garfunkels and the Springsteens & people who sang stories and told stories with their music.

Andrews-Katz: What was the first inclination that you wanted to become a singer?

Fenkart: Music has always had an effect on me. I never had piano lessons or anything like that, but I taught myself because music moved me so much. It was something that was always a part of my life.

Andrews-Katz: How did you pick the songs for your debut CD, Imperfect Man?

Fenkart: I picked songs that were about not being perfect - songs that made the singer want to improve. It was a reflection of who I was at the time. I'm not a perfect person and the music should reflect that.

Andrews-Katz: What is the most important thing you learned between the premiere of your debut album and your second, Simple & Grey?

Fenkart: I learned about how to continue recognizing that I am not perfect. The second album was titled the way it was because I wanted it to (again) reflect me at this time. I tend to over-analyze things and sometimes find myself envious of other people who seem to accept everything so easily. It's about continuing the journey of learning who you are.

Andrews-Katz: How did you get interested in the stage?

Fenkart: Actually I wasn't one of those kids who grew up with the theater. I got into it because I lost a bet when I was a sophomore in high school and had to audition. It changed me and I fell in love with it. Not only the instant gratification that you feel as a performer, but with, again, being able to tell a story with music.

Andrews-Katz: What was your audition for Memphis like?

Fenkart: My agency called me in to audition as an understudy for Huey, the lead role. I was asked to sing 'Memphis is in me!' and to hit the high D at the end, like Chad Kimball [the original lead] did in the song. I thought they were kidding, but now with practice I can do it. I had fun with the audition. The character Huey is nothing like me, so I can think out of the box - and while it can intimidate me for the same reasons, it gives me a lot of freedom.

Andrews-Katz: Since Memphis is your Broadway debut, do you have more of an interest now in performing theater shows?

Fenkart: Definitely. I'd love to do Roger in Rent if it ever came back again, or the Guy in Once. I'd love to work with Jason Robert Brown - I think the man is a genius.

Andrews-Katz: If you could do any role, regardless of gender, what role would it be and why?

Fenkart: It's going to sound strange, but the Guy in Once. I'd seen John Carney [the writer and director of the film] perform once, years before the film ever came out and really liked it. Then when the movie came out it quickly became one of my favorites. I could do that - I can be that guy who plays guitar and writes his own music. Then they made a musical out of it and that was that. I'd love to play that role.

Memphis: The Musical premiered at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre in January 2009. It moved to Broadway on September 23, 2009, and ran for more than 1165 performances, closing last month. The musical deals with segregation in 1950s Tennessee, centering on a Caucasian radio DJ and an African-American singer with whom he gets romantically involved. Memphis won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2010.

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