In the 1990’s, I went walking in Memphis. My friends decided to have a King’s weekend. So, we took a road trip to Graceland. It wasn’t the impressive fortress we had imagined. Our disappointment was only momentary. We stumbled on to Beale Street and understood what Memphis was really famous for.
Broadway in Chicago presents the 2010 Tony Award-winning MEMPHIS. It’s the 1950s. Racial segregation is the culture and the law. Everything is black and white. No color mixing! No shades of gray. Huey stumbles into a club on Beale Street. He’s drawn to the electrifying and unfamiliar music. When he meets the singer Felicia, the attraction is mutual and forbidden. Huey is white. Felicia is black. White people don’t listen to black music. Black people don’t love white people. But Huey is about to change all that. MEMPHIS is THE destination for music!
The story is poignant. The music is vibrant. The combination is a rock and roll fantasy. Over the years, rock and roll has splintered into various subsets. MEMPHIS stays true to its rhythm and blues roots. The tunes are soul stirring, body twisting, head swirling colossal. The book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music and lyrics by David Bryan capture the discrimination of the time period without making it the focal point. Racial tensions simmer below the surface and boil up sporadically. But this entertaining show is primarily about the birth of rock and roll. Composer Bryan sets the upbeat tempo to entice a teenage dancing revolution. Choreographer Sergio Trujillo uses the mega-talented casted in a high-energy, fast-paced spectacle. Huey’s show is a little bit “Soul Train” and a whole lot of “American Bandstand.” The youthful vibe creates a lively sensation. The dance is on! And the entire audience joins in at the curtain call for the uplifting ‘Steal Your Rock and Roll.’
Leading the singing is the fabulous Felicia Boswell (Felicia). Boswell belts out tunes with crowd-pleasing fervor. Her character is trying to be a star. Boswell is already there! Boswell heats up the stage with Bryan Fenkart (Huey). Fenkart is goofy hilarious! Fenkart uses a slapstick physicality to heighten his comedy. Acting and dressing in buffoonery, Fenkart still woos the girl, the sponsor and the audience. People love this crazy cracker. Wak-a-doo! A wise-cracking Julie Johnson (mama) adds her own sassy flair. Her ‘Change Don’t Come Easy’ rendition is an inspirational command. Quentin Earl Darrington (Delray), Will Mann (Bobby) and Rhett George (Gator) also have fantastic solo moments. In particular, George’s ‘Say a Prayer’ gets me misty going into the intermission. This show is the place to be. Chicago needs to get to MEMPHIS! It’s only in town for a limited engagement so plan your trip quickly!
Moving MEMPHIS into his #2 spot on his favorite musicals of all times, Dick describes it with ‘fantastically, rousingly bittersweet.’
Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes includes an intermission
At Cadillac Palace, 151 W. Randolph
Based on a concept by George W. George
Book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro
Music and lyrics by David Bryan
Musical direction by Alvin Hough, Jr.
Directed by Christopher Ashley
Wednesday (11/23) at 7:30pm
Friday (11/25) at 2pm and 7:30pm
Saturday (11/26) at 2pm and 8pm
Sunday (11/27) at 2pm and 7:30pm
Tuesday (11/29) at 7:30pm
Wednesday (11/30) at 2pm and 7:30pm
Thursday (12/1) at 7:30pm
Friday (12/2) at 7:30pm
Saturday (12/3) at 2pm and 8pm
Sunday (12/4) at 2pm
Buy Tickets at www.BroadwayInChicago.com