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BWW Reviews: Fall in Love with the Soulful Radiance of MEMPHIS the Musical at the Arvada Center

The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities opens its 38th theater season with the soulful, Tony Award winning musical MEMPHIS (written by Joe DiPietro with music and lyrics by David Bryan) playing now through September 28th. Set during the early days of rock and roll and the underground dance clubs of the 1950s, Memphis is an exhilarating tale of love and fame filled with high-energy music and explosive dancing. Inspired by actual events, Memphis is about a Huey Calhoun, a white radio DJ, who wants to change the world and Felicia, a black club singer who is ready for her big break.

"Love will stand when all else falls"

There is a line that perfectly fits the amazing work that this cast and crew brought to this show! No - it is not "HOCKADOO," the key word is "FANTASTICAL"! This musical was filled with such passion and every member of the cast brought their all. I thought several of the numbers were actually better than the touring company. The skilled actors behind the showstopping numbers not only sang their hearts out, but absolutely owned their songs such to the audiences delight. The highlight of the show was Jim Hogan and Huey and Aisha Jackson as Felicia that not only brought such conviction to their performances, but great chemistry and blending to their roles. This company also brought the story, not matter how painful to light and truly moved everyone in the audience. Highlight numbers include - Underground, Music of My Soul, Everybody Wants to be Black, Make Me Stronger, Colored Woman, She's My Sister, Say a Prayer, Big Love, Love Will Stand, Stand Up, Change Won't Come Easy, Memphis Lives in Me, and Steal Your Rock-n-Roll.

Jim Hogan was perfect as the goofy and lovable Huey that looked beyond color and saw only love and music. Jim has this way of making the audience instantly fall in love with him and taking them on his rollercoaster of a life. Aside from his great acting, I was in absolute awe of his sensational voice that knew no bounds or octaves. He totally made The Music of My Soul, Radio, and (especially) Memphis Lives in Me his iconic numbers. I am filled with a sense of motherly pride to see local Aisha Jackson transform from Little Inez in Hairspray into this blossoming and accomplished exceptional singer. She brought heart, passion and a bit of sassiness to the role of music ingenue, Felicia. I absolutely was in love with her singing in Colored Woman,Someday, and Love Will Stand. Keith Hattenn portrayed Felicia's brother, Delray with such compassion and heart. He truly was the grumpy and protective brother with a heart of gold. His rendition of She's My Sister was so powerful and brought an elevated strength to his role. Mathenee Treco was absolutely adorable as Bobby and he brought down the house with his showstopping number, Big Love. Mama Gladys (fabulously played by Melissa Swift Sawyer) grounded the show and their runaway romance with her ingrained racism, but she brought such a great character arch as she began to come around. She also brought had the audience clapping and on their feet with Change Don't Come Easy. Robert Michael Sanders pulled double duty and was so humorous as both shopkeeper Mr. Simmons and radio station manager Collins giving them their own distinctive style and hilarity. Vincent Smith did a great job with his non-verbal expressions as Gator and when his gorgeous voice broke out into Say a Prayer, it demanded everyone's attention.

Director Rod Lansberry and music director David Nehls did an outstanding job of finding such a well rounded cast that elevated this show to a gem in the Arvada Center's long line of great musicals. The showed flowed with ease and I appreciated the sensible blocking with such a large cast! Best of all, these directors were able to highlight these amazing vocals and the true heart and passion of the show! Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck kept the energy high with her choreography and I especially appreciated her hard work in Everybody wants to Be Black, and Crazy Little Huey. Brian Mallgrave proves his talents as a superior scenic design with his stunning visual. I adored the busy city backdrop' and the wrap-around balcony added such dimension to the visual. The sound by designer David Thomas and lighting by Shannon McKinney complimented this set wonderfully. The costumes by designer Christine Campbell covered a wide range of styles for that time period and was a rich array of color and vibrance.

If this amazing season opener is any indication of what we have to look forward to, then this will be an absolutely fantastic season for the Arvada Center! Be sure to experience the amazing vocals and talents that this show is brimming over with! MEMPHIS is moving audiences now through September 28th. Performances are Tuesdays - Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 1 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., through September 28th. For more information and to purchase tickets contact the Arvada Center box office by calling 720-898-7200 or check them out online at

PHOTO CREDIT: P. Switzer Photography 2014

PICTURED ABOVE: Jim Hogan as Huey and Aisha Jackson as Felicia

Aisha Jackson as Felicity

Jim Hogan as Huey

Keith L. Hatten as Delray

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From This Author Michael Mulhern

Michael Mulhern has lived in Denver and been active in it's theater scene for over 10 years. He is originally from Wiesbaden, Germany and graduated (read more...)