BWW Reviews: MEMPHIS Says 'Hockadoo!' to San Antonio
If you take a road trip through Memphis, Tennessee, a walk down world famous Beale Street is an absolute must. The city and street are synonymous with rhythm 'n blues - if you want music with a soul, you'll find it on Beale Street.
The same was true of the Memphis of the 1950s. However, those were the days of Jim Crow laws and racial conflicts - Beale Street was filled with soul music, but if you were white, you stayed in "your" part of town and listened to "your" kind of music, even if you craved something different. Memphis (the musical) is home to Huey Calhoun (Bryan Fenkart), a love-struck fool (or genius?) who stumbles upon a jazz club on Beale Street and falls for the girl performing that evening, Felicia Farrell (played by Felicia Boswell) and the rhythm 'n blues she sings. One problem: he's white. Colorblind Huey isn't interested in accepting the racial boundaries set by society and ignores them, determined to bring the music of his soul to the people of Memphis. Hard-headedness and dumb luck land him a probationary job as a disc jockey and he takes advantage of the opportunity to try to make rock 'n roll (rhythm 'n blues sped up) mainstream.
Admittedly, I was hesitant about this musical. I had watched most of the Broadway performance that had been filmed for broadcast (and is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD) and found myself less than impressed. That broadcast featured the original Broadway cast, and this was one of the few times I am of the opinion that the touring cast performed their roles more ably than the originals. I had found Huey Calhoun to be a grating, exhausting try-hard. HOWEVER, in this touring production, Bryan Fenkart portrayed Huey as the aforementioned love-struck fool full of nothing but love and dumb luck. I was absolutely, pleasantly surprised by this discovery. Felicia Broswell (portraying Felicia Farrell) is an incredible singer worthy of becoming the star her character longs to be. Fenkart and Broswell are supported by a large and very talented cast that ably bring to live the spirit and energy of the original rock 'n roll era.
Back to our story: does Huey succeed in bringing rock to the masses? If you want to find out how his story ends, head to the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio by February 24 to catch a performance that will have your head bopping and toes tapping - and you might even tear up a few times. Tickets are available at the theatre box office and Ticketmaster.