Memphis The Musical
I finally saw Memphis on Wednesday 27th May at the Shaftesbury Theatre and there had been so much hype about this show I went expecting big things!!
This is a show set in Memphis (funnily enough) during the 1950’s when race is a major issue. Mixed racial marriages are still illegal and rock and roll was becoming the biggest force in popular music. The storyline is nothing new, boy meets girl, boy and girl can’t be together due to bigotry, music pushes boundaries however the storyline is not what you go to see this show for!
This show smacks you from the off with a big sound and great vocals. With all original music (a big plus in my eyes) the band and the singing has to be the strongest point about Memphis. The cast are pitch perfect and Beverley Knight as Felicia has a jaw dropping voice. As a result she is totally believable as a star in the making. We saw the understudy for Huey, Jon Robyns and I have to say I would not have been able to tell he was an understudy. His vocals blended perfectly with Beverly Knights and easily kept up with the demands of this show.
The choreography was also strong and at times I was so captivated by what was going on with particular dancers that I could not take my eyes off them but then I was disappointed that I had missed what was going on elsewhere on stage. The energy bounded off stage in each dance number.
In addition to Huey and Felicia, the character of Bobby played by Jason Pennycooke stood out. He came across as very likeable on stage with a smooth voice and even smoother moves.
Following on from my point about the storyline earlier this is not helped by the lyrics. At some points they felt a little forced, in particular Delray’s number; ‘She’s My Sister,’ was contrived. Despite the odd problem with the lyrics this is a soundtrack I would defiantly download, even if just to marvel at Beverly Knight’s voice time and time again. The book fell down for similar reasons and it took a while for the heart of the show to kick in.
If you liked Hairspray then you will like this show. It is very similar to Hairspray with the same racial undertones, with part of the show based in a TV studio and all about music conquering barriers however Hairspray’s humour is lacking from Memphis but there is more violence and grit and is probably closer to the reality of the time.