Japanese film crew to capture area Neal Boyd performance on video

Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Neal E. Boyd (Kit Doyle)

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- When opera singer Neal E. Boyd agreed to perform at Rodgers Theatre, he reportedly was looking for a venue close to home so his mother Esther, whom he says keeps him grounded, could attend.

As it turns out, there will not only be an intimate audience watching locally, but the concert will be transmitted to viewers on the other side of the globe.

Japanese television producers plan to visit Poplar Bluff to film Boyd's performance on Oct. 17, as well as shoot scenes from his hometown of Sikeston before and after the event.

"His mother seems to (play a) central role in his life, so it'd be great to film him in his hometown," said Keiko Tamura, the project coordinator from Topspin Creative Corp., a Japanese production company based in New York City.

The film crew will compile footage for an episode of "Unbelievable," a popular series that airs on the Fuji Television Network headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.

Along with Boyd's family, Tamura said she intends to interview his childhood friends and former teachers, plus shoot at places where he sang growing up.

Boyd, who won $1 million on NBC's "America's Got Talent" last year, said he is grateful for the opportunity to continue to tell his success story, about being raised as a biracial child in a single-parent household.

"If your music can reach out beyond the borders, it's a huge compliment, because people overseas have a different perspective on what they're hearing," said the 33-year-old. "I think the story I tell on my album is a very American story about overcoming adversity, but at the same time you come to realize how universal that story is."

His first major label album, "My American Dream," will be distributed to Japan through Universal in late November, according to Boyd. He hopes that the international release may coincide with a live music tour throughout Asia, he said.

An insurance salesman in his former life, Boyd admitted that he does not know if he will ever get used to his new-found fame. He said he is most comfortable singing on stage in front of familiar faces near home, and that his foreign guests would certainly add another element of pressure.

Boyd's secret is to just do what he knows best, which is to sing his heart out with his tenor, he said. When he is faced with a challenge, he added, he seeks advice from his mother, who taught him to remain humble.

"My journey makes no sense unless you tell the story of how I grew up, and talk to the people I grew up with," said Boyd, who currently resides in the St. Louis area. "More than anything, I'm really excited that the world's going to learn about Southeast Missouri in a very positive way."

While there is no deal for the broadcast to appear on any national networks at this time, according to the producers, Boyd noted that a clip might appear on the Internet some time.

"It's amazing to picture a family in Tokyo sitting on their couch watching a television program that involves Rodgers," said Jim Hoyt, who is a member of the managing board of the historic building. "It truly speaks to the magnitude of this occasion."

Hoyt was instrumental in booking the concert to benefit the restoration efforts of Rodgers Theatre on the corner of Broadway and Vine streets. All proceeds will go toward restoring the roof, estimated to cost $150,000.

Tickets are available through Southern Bank, the event sponsor, at its Poplar Bluff, Dexter and Sikeston branches.

Boyd will conduct a free CD signing at 4 p.m. in San Francisco Bread Co., prior to the show, scheduled to begin at 7.

Pertinent address:

North Broadway and Pine, Poplar Bluff, Mo.

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