BWW Review: MEMPHIS at the Woodlawn
When I saw the recent Broadway touring version of "Memphis" at the Majestic, I was not very impressed. I found the music largely unmemorable (though rousing in the gospel numbers), the ending a cloyingly melodramatic downer, and the central character's catchphrase of "hockadoo" a little irritating after umpteen repetitions.
While the production at the Woodlawn does not exactly make me a fan of the show as a whole, it proves to be more dynamic and less melodramatic than the production I saw at the Majestic, with some excellent performances from a very talented cast.
Marie Warren Bunch, in her role as Felicia Farrell, a singer launched by Memphis DJ Huey Calhoun (a role purportedly based on the life of Dewey Phillips, one of the first white DJs to promote black music in the 1960s) breathes more life into her songs than was evident in the touring production.
As Huey, Brian Hodges proves to be a more sympathetic and entertaining character than the portrayal I saw at the Majestic. The romance between his character and Felicia is also rendered more poignant and less cloying. Hodges is generally not well served by the songs he is given, but has his big musical moment in "Memphis Lives in Me".
The most show-stopping musical performance, however, comes from Anna Gangai, in the number "Change Don't Come Easy". Her performance as Huey's mother is one of the strongest in the show.
Other notable performances in solo roles came from Edward Burkley as Felicia's brother, Kenny Patterson as Bobby, and David Blazer as the seedy and opportunistic radio manager whose moral compass is governed solely by money.
Outstanding in multiple roles were Joshua Golberg (managing to steal most of the scenes he was in), Cody Wilson, Robert Moritz and Courtney Davis.
Kurt Wehner's set is of a high standard and Rose Kennedy does her usual fine job of costuming, as does Josh Pepper as music director.
A special mentioned is earned by choreographer Alonzo Corona for his inventive and energetic dance routines.
I groaned inwardly when I heard that the Woodlawn was going to do yet another production of a show that had recently appeared at the Majestic, but I suppose the decision can be considered justified if you can produce a more entertaining version than the Majestic.