Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Moving and Chucking Dramaturgy: Movin' Melvin @ Edfringe 2017

Movin’ Melvin Brown – Chuck Berry Lives! 
A Reelin’ and Rockin’ Musical Revolution
Legendary song and dance man Movin’ Melvin Brown is back at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in his ongoing quest to champion the best black American music.

Now 72, he grew up in an era of segregation when the records of Chuck Berry helped bring down racial barriers. A vibrant performer, his show is about enjoying fabulous music and also recognising Chuck Berry as the true king of rock ’n’ roll.

·     Music (cabaret)

·     Venue: Assembly Roxy (Central), 2 Roxburgh Pl, Edinburgh EH8 9SU (Venue 139)
·     Dates: 7 to 27 August. No show Mon 21 August.
·     Time: 16:25. Duration: 70 minutes 

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The inspiration for the show was to celebrate Chuck Berry and all that he did for music. He was the king of rock ‘n’ roll. You hear that said of this person or that person – but when you go to each of them and ask who they think is the king of rock ‘n’ roll, they all agree it was Chuck Berry.

I want to get people into Chuck Berry and get them to understand what he gave to rock ‘n’ roll, let them get the real feel of it.

He started so much and achieved so much. I really
wanted to pay tribute to him, to remind people who remember him of that great music and to introduce it to the new generations that may not have heard it before.

This was the music that I grew up with and it meant so much. Music like this didn’t just change our lives it made our lives.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

It is, because it’s expressive. With this show it works really well because I give people the chance not just to hear the music but to understand where it comes from as well. It’s important to understand the effect that this music had.

When rock ‘n’ roll came along all the kids, no matter what their colour, jumped on the bandwagon. And this was a time when black and white kids didn’t share the same bandwagon. When they heard that music they just had to go and dance.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I came from a family where we danced all the time. When music came on the radio we just got up and danced. On my first day at school the teacher asked if anyone could dance – and I thought that was strange because everyone I knew danced. I put my hand up and she said “come on then Melvin, give us a little dance”, so I did and everybody clapped.

That was it. I didn’t have any problems after that in knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I feel very fortunate because not everybody gets that sense of knowing what they want to do with their life at such an early age.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

My approach is that, first of all, I’ve got to have fun with a show. If I don’t have fun with it then I don’t want to put it in front of other people. So I come up with stories, with comedy bits, and lots of things about Chuck Berry. And so I think that if I’m having fun with this and the audience are having fun with it then we are all going to end up in the same place.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
It does in the sense that I’ve got a story about the person the show is about. But this show is quite unusual because of Chuck Berry’s rock ‘n’ roll music. And to tell you how thrilling it is – when we were doing the tech rehearsal all the young people working for the venue started to rock ‘n’ roll, and they don’t even know this music. And when you look back at the old film from the 50s it was just like then – the music started and the people just started dancing.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Fun is what I want them to experience. I think it’s going to be a treat for them. For the older people it’s a chance to hear that great music again that they loved all those years ago. For the young people it’s a chance to hear something different, the roots of where so much of the music they hear today came from.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
As I say, a lot of it is about fun and having a great time, but it goes deeper than that. I perform the songs but I also tell stories about Chuck Berry and his life. It’s nice when you hear music and enjoy it, but it’s even better if you understand something about where it came from and some of the things that happened to those people in their lives as they tried to get that music to you.

A long-time Fringe favourite, Brown has chosen Edinburgh for the world premiere of Chuck Berry Lives! It promises an amazing mix of classics like Sweet Little Sixteen, Memphis, Johnny B Goode with dance routines of the kind that have won him a faithful following worldwide. It also coincides with the launch of his latest CD C'est La Vie, which includes Chuck Berry hits like Reelin’ and Rockin’ and Never Can Tell as well as his own new songs including I Want to be Your Lover.

Brown is a wizard of song and tap who has been seen widely on BBC TV, was the featured artist at Oprah Winfrey’s birthday party for Maya Angelou and has earned critical acclaim from reviewers.
Brown first stole hearts with his dancing aged five. He had a doo-wop group as a teenager and has appeared with the likes of James Brown, BB King, The Isley Brothers and Little Stevie Wonder. Accolades include Best Blues Artist (LA American Radios Award), Best International Act and nominee Star of the Festival (Brighton Festival), People’s Choice Award Winner (Vancouver), Most Outstanding Performer (New York Festival, Orlando, Ottawa).
While in Edinburgh Brown will be running Tap Into Health workshops, his programme to promote health, fitness and wellbeing through dance.

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