BWW Reviews: Fox Theatre's Lively Presentation of MEMPHIS
While it may look through its world through "rose colored glasses", Memphis celebrates a time when race music was beginning to catch on with a white, mostly teenaged audience. It's a crackling, amusing, and fast-paced show (book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, music and lyrics by David Bryan) that takes you on a musical journey through the eyes of young Huey, a wannabe DJ, who gets his wish, and may get his girl, if they can survive the glare of the fifties, when mixing of the races was against the law. Does this all sound heavy? Well it's not, not by a long shot. Instead, it's a bouncy and bluesy production that's easy to take and listen to. It's currently playing the Fox Theatre (through May 13, 2012), and there's a reason this show is so successful, it's just edgy enough to appeal to the jaded, and it lightens the tone of this historical racist behavior just enough to succeed with the masses.
Huey, an under-educated, poor, white boy loves the sound of Soul and Rhythm and Blues music, to the point where he seeks out a singer named Felicia at all-black club. He stands out like a sour thumb, but there's something goofily likable about this kid, and he sings up a storm with Felicia, who has a powerful set of pipes herself. His promise to get her on the radio succeeds, and they begin meeting in secret, but when they both attacked for being seen kissing in public, their love, and Felicia's health, is put to the test.
Bryan Fenkart is very good as Huey, he's both charming and abrasive, sometimes at the same time, and he's been well paired with Felicia Boswell, who rocks the house on several occasions with her superb voice. Quentin Earl Darrington is memorable as Delray, who owns the club that Felicia sings at. He's also her brother, and he's not interested in any man who takes an interest in his sister, and that especially includes Huey. Rhett George does fine work as Gator, who's wordless until Delray begins to take out his anger at the beating on Huey, and Will Mann is strong as Bobby. The ensemble is superior as well, backing up the singers, and hoofing it up with reckless abandon.
Christopher Ashley's direction is uptempo and flashy, and though it glosses over The Edges of this story, it doesn't lose it enough to fall flat. The amazing, changeable set is by scenic designer David Gallo, and the period costumes are by Paul Tazewell. Howell Binkley's lighting is nicely realized, and Sergio Trujillo's choreography is lively and fun.
Memphis is a terrific show! Don't miss it at the Fox (through May 13, 2012).