BWW Reviews: The National Tour of MEMPHIS at the Denver Center - Amazing Voices!
The Denver Center presents the Tony award winning hit, MEMPHIS (2010 Tony Award winner for Best Musical) playing at the Buell Theatre now through October 21st. MEMPHIS takes place in the smoky halls and underground clubs of the segregated 50’s, where a young white DJ named Huey Calhoun fell in love with everything he shouldn’t: rock and roll and an electrifying black singer. MEMPHIS is an original story about the cultural revolution that erupted when his vision met her voice and the music changed forever. Come along on their incredible journey to the ends of the airwaves -- filled with laughter, soaring emotion and roof-raising rock 'n' roll. Critically acclaimed MEMPHIS won four 2010 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score (David Bryan and Joe DiPietro), Best Book (Joe DiPietro) and Best Orchestrations (David Bryan and Daryl Waters).
I have to admit that this show was a surprise to me. When I heard the first song, Underground, I was a little underwhelmed but from that point on each song kept getting better and better. That's when I realized that this musical had broken that age-old mold (Showstopping opening number, touching/reminiscent song, love song, menacing song.....where do we go from here.....another showstopper, song of conviction, showstopper/heartfelt Finale). This musical actually followed an arch where it started low and kept building until it arched over for a lovely bittersweet ending. I truly feel that this, along with the touching plot line and performances with those amazing songs is totally the reason why it won the Tony for Best Musical. This show is a big ball of toe-tapping fun and I must say that I am still humming several of those memorable songs today. This production was filled with so many moments that made us laugh through the wit and drive of Huey, made us cringe through the reminder of the struggle of racism and narrow mindedness, made our hearts soar through the love story of Huey and Felicia, and made us cry through the heartfelt struggle that was Felicia. Several of the most memorable and touching numbers included The Music of My Soul, Make Me Stronger, Colored Woman, Someday, Say a Prayer, Big Love, Love Will Stand, Change Don't Come Easy, Memphis Lives in Me, and Steal Your Rock 'n' Roll.
I have to congratulate that entire cast as a whole for having some of the best voices I have heard on a national tour. This story was truly about the struggle, rise, fall and redemption that was the animated Huey. Bryan Fenkart in the lead role totally did him justice, giving his character so much depth and making that audience laugh while touching their hearts. His awkward ambition was so much fun to watch and his love story with Felicia grabbed at the heart strings. He completely owned Memphis Lives in Me and I loved that even though he has lost everything, he still believes in the city that he loves.
Honestly, I could listen to those amazing pipes that belong to Felicia Boswell. As Felicia, she showed great contrast from the sassy girl trying to make it in the business, to the girl that is changed from love and racism, finally to the woman that actualizes her dreams. My only wish was that she had a visible scar from her attack in Act One which would further justify her drive to move above and beyond her beloved city of Memphis. Her standout songs were Colored Woman and Love Will Stand When All Else Fails.
Her brother, Delray (played wonderfully by Horace V. Rogers) really brought that reality of racism into the lovers surreal world. His strength and compassion and love of his sister was something to take note of. Will Mann was delightful as the sarcastic Bobby and he song, Big Love was absolutely fun to experience. Rhett George continued his fantastic performance as Gator from Broadway to the national tour. His non-verbal expressions for the first act were astounding and I must say that when he ended his silence and broke into song (Say a Prayer) at the end of Act One, I instantly teared up and you would also when you hear that gorgeous voice that he has.
Mama (geniusly played by Julie Johnson) was a fun and conflicted role where she was dealing with her own feelings of racism and her son's new love interest; to the integrated transformed woman in Act Two. Now don't get me wrong, her role overall was hilarious and she totally stole the show with her number, Change Don't Come Easy. There are few times that I would ever get up for a standing ovation in the middle of the show, but this showstopper and that sensational voice, had me on my feet!
With an amazing cast with heartfelt and memorable performances, stellar music, and touching story, this is one show you do not want to miss! So turn that dial up for MEMPHIS playing the Buell Theatre now through October 21st. For tickets or more information, contact the box office online at www.denvercenter.org or by calling 303.893.4100.
PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Kolnik
Felicia Boswell as Felicia
Bryan Fenkart as Huey and Ensemble
Julie Johnson as Mama
Felicia Boswell as Felicia and Ensemble
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