A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be offered tickets to the hit musical and Tony Award winning show Memphis the Musical from the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau. I looked at a few reviews as I hadn’t heard of this show and knew immediately I wanted to see it.
Memphis the Musical is set in the 1950s when rock n’ roll and rhythm and blues was coming to the forefront of the music world and along with that we were also at the start of the civil rights movement. This outstanding show brings both of these amazing times in history to a spectacularly entertaining show that had me cheering with joy, clapping with glee, crying with sadness and laughing until my stomach hurt. I loved every single second of it.
Huey Calhoun is a hard on his luck DJ who walks into an all-black music club one night. He quickly becomes enraptured by the music and also a singer, Felicia who is the sister of the club owner. This is the back-drop of the show. Music is at the forefront.
Based loosely on real life character, Dewey Phillips who was one of the first DJs to play Elvis Presley, the character Huey did a similar thing with rock ‘n roll at a department store where he worked. The store fires him but he is soon taken on by a local radio station where he plays his alternative music to the love of the teenagers and the disapproval of the South as a whole. The radio station soon realizes Huey is on to a winner and takes him on permanently.
Huey’s mother, Gladys is a somewhat downtrodden single mum who disapproves of his life style and of course his interest in Felicia. This leads to some funny scenes without feeling like you want to leave the theater because of what the situation represents.
Huey eventually gets his own Rock ‘n Roll TV show like Bandstand and stands by his principals of featuring “black” music and entertainers. You also see his relationship growing with Felicia and the fear she increasingly has around their relationship coming out. Again, this was done with grace and diplomacy without making the audience feel uncomfortable.
As his show grows in popularity they want him to go national but with the proviso that he changes his format to a show with white entertainers. He refuses and stands by his belief in this type of music and where it comes from. As Huey’s career declines, Felicia gets the chance to become a star and takes it.
Despite the uncomfortable subject matter Memphis the Musical manages to truly entertain its audience. The stand out star of this show is absolutely the music with some solo songs by Felicia and Gladys that make you hold your breath, they are so good.
It is only on for three more days at the Colonial so I would encourage you to try and get tickets to see it. You will absolutely not be disappointed. If you can’t get tickets, I have no doubt it will be back in Boston very soon or you can take a trip to another city.
A must see!