MEMPHIS is coming to San Diego, and I had a chance to sit down with Bryan Fenkart, who plays the lead role of Huey and talk to him about this show, creating his own music and how he got into theatre in the first place. Inspired by actual events, MEMPHIS is about a radio DJ who wants to change the world and a club singer who is ready for her big break.
Bryan Fenkart is no stranger to the musical MEMPHIS. Originally hired as a member of the ensemble on Broadway, Bryan became the understudy and standby for Chad Kimball and now he makes the lead role his own on the tour of MEMPHIS. These opportunities lead to him getting to perform for New York audiences quite often in the lead role.
“It was both rewarding and terrifying because being an understudy can be a really thankless and also scary job, but I ended up going on a lot. It was pretty much the sweetest understudy gig that you can get,” Bryan says. “ Because I ended up going on 200 times almost over the course of the time I was there. In a year and a half, that’s not too bad. A lot of people hope to go on for a few weeks and I ended up doing a few shows a week so that was pretty great.”
There is so much enthusiasm in his voice when he talks about being able to bring this show to cities across the country that you can’t help but envy this opportunity he has to travel and perform. Fenkart is a New Jersey native and after being in MEMPHIS on Broadway, he admits that life on tour is a new adventure for him.
“It’s definitely an adjustment from the sort of static life of New York acting, but it’s also really kind of gratifying. I’ve never seen a lot of the cities that we’re in and this is a really cool way to do it. My night job is to get up on stage and do this great show, but then I get to see all these great cities that I’ve never seen before. So, it’s cool. And it’s nice to be able to take the story of Memphis on the road instead of just doing it in New York where people have to travel to come see it.”
Bryan admits that his introduction to theatre is not the typical, ” I didn’t start any acting until high school. I was 16 and I actually lost a bet on English class so I had to join the drama that year.” Yet he says that after that chance to perform, performing was where he felt he belonged.
“I sort of felt like I found a place where I could fit in. I know that sounds kind of rehashed because a lot of people say that about this business. But it’s true. It’s sort of a home for the homeless. It’s sort of like the Island of Misfit Toys. So you kind of find a place where you do fit in with the rest of the misfits and it’s kind of a nice safe haven.”
The drama he had to perform in was Woody Allen’s DON’T DRINK THE WATER, for those who were wondering.
A self taught musician, Fenkart never lost his love for creating music and his second album “Simple & Grey” is a compilation of songs that are most representative of where he is right now.
“The title and title track refer to a feeling of wanting to fit in, I guess? That feeling like I’m off and far too over analytical and complicated and wish that I could just accept things for the way they were and be a little bit less complex. Even though, ultimately I would never trade it there is this fleeting desire that I have at least once a day that I wasn’t quite so strange.”
Yet Bryan acknowledges that it is this unique way of the world that has lead him of some very fun adventures, including this tour of MEMPHIS and ultimately he “would never trade this for anything.”
MEMPHIS is playing at the San Diego Civic Theatre now through July 29th. For more information, go to www.broadwaysd.com
Photo credit: Broadway San Diego and Joan Allen