For the first time in the history of the Orpheum theater, a Broadway tour is set to launch from its stage.
Memphis, get ready for "Memphis."
"I made a financial offer and a commitment," said Orpheum president Pat Halloran, who is also one of the show's producers. "There was some politicking, as other theaters wanted it. But the way we look at it, there's no better city for a show called 'Memphis' to open in."
The tour begins October 2011.
Inspired by real-life Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips, "Memphis" is the story of a young white man who falls in love with the soul music of Beale Street in the 1950s. The fast-talking Huey Calhoun also falls in love with a black club singer, which has more serious social repercussions.
Joe DiPietro, writer of the Elvis-themed musical "All Shook Up," teamed up with Bon Jovi keyboard player David Bryan to create a rock- and soul-flavored musical that pays tribute to the city's music, racial history and cultural influence.
Unlike other tours, which typically arrive and depart within a week's time, "Memphis" will spend almost a month in the Orpheum as production elements are assembled and staged for the first time.
"They'll likely hold auditions and build the set in New York," Halloran said. "But then everything will be shipped to Memphis and the process begins of putting it together."
Halloran said he'll raise at least $1 million locally to back the tour.
While not all Broadway shows become tours, producers have thought "Memphis" would make a lucrative tour from the start.
"It was a foregone conclusion that this was going to be a very popular show," Halloran said. "It's very uplifting and exciting, and we have a feeling that it's going to do very well on the road."
Another production that the Orpheum invested in, which opened in Nashville, nearly didn't become a touring show.
The Dolly Parton musical, "9 to 5," closed quickly in New York, but producers felt it would connect better in middle America than in New York City.
No announcement has been made on casting for "Memphis," which currently stars Chad Kimball as the deejay and Montego Glover as his love interest -- actors who have been with the Broadway production since the first workshops in 2003.
Broadway.com listed "Memphis" as No. 4 in its list of the best shows of 2009, a year with 44 Broadway openings.