U.S. history. Musical history. Forbidden love. Jubilant singing. Delicious dancing. What combines all of these factors into an exuberant and exhilarating Broadway show? Memphis, the new Tony Award-winning musical now playing at the Shubert Theater!
This show works on every level. We discover the history of rock n’ roll. We understand the impact of race on the music business. We visit the roots of racism in the South. We learn that love doesn’t always conquer all. From the moment the curtain goes up to the time it goes down, two-and-a-half soul-filled hours later, we relate to the powerful and empathetic characters that successfully entertain, while reliving the terrors of the times.
Memphis is a simple story. A white high school dropout from the poor side of town, Huey has a deep love of black music. He ventures into a basement juke-joint, where he meets a girl. Felicia steals his heart and captivates his soul with her glorious voice. Unfortunately, she is “colored” and problems ensue.
Facing reverse racism, Huey has to convince the skeptical black club owner, Delray, who also happens to be Felicia’s brother, to allow him to record their music. Overcoming even more skepticism from a white radio station owner, he becomes the hottest DJ at the hottest radio station in town, playing “race” music that all the white kids love.
Along the way, Huey and Felicia begin a romance. Not surprisingly, there’s major jeopardy, and they are viciously beaten by angry whites.
Still, his success grows and hers blossoms, too. She is offered a record contract up North and he is sought as a TV host. Like many good love stories, this one is doomed by her determination and his stubbornness. Felicia becomes a star and Huey ends up a lonely loser at a radio station with only one listener.
The singing and dancing is energetic and forceful, providing sheer excitement from start to finish. It’s difficult for the audience NOT to clap or foot-stomp along. So it’s no surprise that at the end, the entire audience jumps to their feet in a standing ovation for the cast.
Tony nominee Montego Glover gives a remarkable performance as Felicia. She is charming, talented and charismatic. Her voice resonates with a quality steeped in the times. Seeing her after the show, we were astounded that such a petite person could belt out such strong music in the performance of a lifetime.
The role of Huey was played by Bryan Fenkart, usually the understudy. Understudy certainly does not mean underperformance. Bryan was terrific. His acting was vulnerable and funny, and his voice soared through all the numbers. We met him briefly after the show and were surprised at his sweetness and humility. We’re sure Tony nominee Chad Kimball must be fantastic as Huey, but at this performance Bryan truly knocked our socks off.
The entire cast is marvelous. J. Bernard Calloway as Delray, Derrick Baskin as Gator and James Monroe Iglehart as Bobby are performers par excellence. Each with giant roles that they deliver from their hearts to warm our souls. The talented ensemble never stops working to make this a stellar musical journey.
Winner of four 2010 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Memphis features a Tony-winning book by Joe DiPietro (I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change) and a Tony-winning original score with music by Bon Jovi founding member David Bryan. Directing is Tony nominee Christopher Ashley (Xanadu), and choreography is by Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys).
Memphis is a not-to-be-missed experience that will have you dancing in the aisles even before it’s over.
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225 West 44th Street
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