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Theatre Review: Memphis



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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, November 02, 2012

"Memphis" might be the only musical you'll ever see about a disk jockey. He's a Southern hayseed named Huey Calhoun. When he gets near a microphone, he's a raver.

Huey: (ranting and raving)

Huey may be a little crazy, but he's got a heart of gold. His major accomplishment in life is that he spins records by black artists - music he adores -- on a powerful AM radio station owned by a white businessman. In the segregated south during the 1950s, this was somewhat revolutionary. And before you can say corn meal mush, Huey falls for a pretty black singer named Felicia - played in this production by Felicia Boswell, whose vocal power carries the show.

(Felicia, singing)

Then Cupid takes control, and "Memphis" becomes one of those boy-meets-girl, boy-gets-girl affairs. After all, we are talking about a musical.

(Music, Huey and Felicia duet)

Unlike the recent show "Million Dollar Quartet," set in the same city and era with white characters, "Memphis" unfolds in what we'll call the colored part of town. The score features original music by David Bryan of Bon Jovi, emulating Black styles like the blues and gospel.

The racial angle also figures in the plot, with sanctioned segregation and social tensions - though this is a show in which sincere conversation, followed by a big dance number, swiftly settles turmoil. Again, it's a musical.

The songs aren't stunningly original, but they advance the ball downfield. The dance numbers recall the musical "Hairspray," and they're strong -- but there are a lot of them, making the show a l-i-t-t-l-e long. There's chemistry between Bryan Fenkart as Huey and Felicia Boswell as Felicia, yet the plot gets melodramatic, which will, I predict, deny this show classic status over the long haul. But all in all, "Memphis" is a fun night out, and that's a good thing.

(Gospel song out)

Broadway Sacramento presents "Memphis" now through Sunday, November 4th at the Community Center Theatre

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