Rhodes Student JD Willis ’25 Lands Starring Role in Theatre Memphis Production

two actors on a theater stage
JD Willis '25 (right) portraying Jean-Michel (photo taken by Carla McDonald, courtesy of Theatre Memphis)

JD Willis, a Rhodes College first-year student from Madison, AL, will perform the role of Jean-Michel in Theatre Memphis’ production of La Cage aux Folles. The musical opens Friday, March 4.
“Jean-Michel is a young romantic who often doesn’t think before he acts,” says Willis about the character. “He makes some rash decisions out of his own self-interest at the expense of both of his parents, but he is a good heart.”

La Cage aux Folles centers on Georges and his partner Albin who have lived together for years and the adventures that ensue when Georges’ son, Jean-Michel, introduces them to his fiancée’s parents. The Theatre Memphis production of La Cage aux Folles is based on a film and stage version of the same title.

“Working with this cast has been a high honor,” says Willis. “Half of the cast are professional actors and actresses, and it has been incredible to be a part of the production.”
Memphis-born and New York-trained choreographer Whitney Branan, who has been teaching dance courses at Rhodes this semester, is choreographing La Cage aux Folles and performing as Angelique.

“She is such an accomplished dancer and actress, and I’ve tried my best to keep up,” says Willis. “I’m not a dancer per se, but she has been so wonderful and patient in making sure every moment of the show is beautiful.”

Students in Branan’s dance courses at Rhodes are planning to attend La Cage aux Folles March 5.
“I’m excited to share this gorgeous story about love and identity with them as part of their community live performance requirement,” she says. “Studying dance in a studio environment is how Dance for Musical Theatre 150 and Contemporary Dance 250 learn to bring inner stories to life in the body.  Working on La Cage Aux Folles with JD and as his choreographer and castmate has been a joy. I’m grateful to Rhodes for allowing my students the opportunity to see several live community dance performances this semester.”

La Cage aux Folles runs March 4-27. For more information, visit here.