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The 1930s come alive in ‘Jiggin’ at the Jug’ at the Strand Theatre

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
The 1930s come alive in ‘Jiggin’ at the Jug’ at the Strand Theatre
Rapper Laroy Streatplays the lead role in Melvin Murphy’s “Jiggin’ at the Jug." PHOTO: COURTESY MELVIN MURPHY

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Melvin Murphy was born with a song in his heart. The self-taught musician learned to love music in church choir and honed his skills for decades. Now he’s ready to share something new with Boston. After four years of preparation, his original production, “Jiggin’ at the Jug,” premieres at the Strand Theatre this month.

“Jiggin’ at the Jug” follows a young man, played by rapper Laroy Streat, who travels from the country South to a northern city in the 1930s. The stylish social scene and newly spawned jazz music are exciting to this country rube, but he quickly learns there may be more to the city life than just entertainment.

Melvin Murphy COURTESY PHOTO

“I love that era, because there was a big jazz movement at the time,” says Murphy. “I really wanted to try to paint that picture for our generation and future generations so they can see what went on back then.”

Murphy is a computer systems operator by day, a musician by night and the director of The Higher Praise Music & Arts Gospel Choir. He was born in Alabama and moved at age 4 to Boston, where he’s been composing tunes ever since.

The family-friendly show will be rooted in a jazz score composed by Murphy, who wrote the script as well, and performed by a live band. Many of the core cast members are from the gospel choir. Murphy’s first engagements with music were in church, and the “Jiggin’ at the Jug” storyline is loosely based on the Biblical tale of the prodigal son.

An intergenerational cast, including some children, performs the show, and it will have all the elements of a classic musical: humor, heart, choreographed dance numbers and belted-out songs.

“I’m hoping the audience will really walk away encouraged and inspired by what they see and what they hear,” says Murphy.

“Jiggin’ at the Jug” runs at the Strand Theatre for just two shows on Friday and Saturday, May 10 and 11. Discounted rates are available for large groups and organizations.

Premiering the show in Boston was important to Murphy, he says, and doing so at the historic Strand Theatre brings things full circle for the musician, who saw many performances there in his formative years. He has big dreams for the production, but it all begins here in Dorchester.

“Eventually we want to try to get to Broadway and tour the country,” says Murphy. “From here on, I may be able to go all the way to New York or London or Paris and do shows, but I can always brag that we did our first show in Boston at the Strand.”

arts, Jiggin’ at the Jug, Melvin Murph, music, Strand Theatre