The 5th Avenue Theatre
January 27- February 15, 2009
Tickets and Information
If you have ever tapped your toe to a good rockin’ beat or shimmied down with a rollin’ melody, then the perfect show for you is playing at the 5th Avenue Theatre. Memphis, book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, and music and lyrics by David Bryan (yes—that’s Bon Jovi’s keyboardist), chronicles rock and roll’s transition from the black underground to American mainstream, all thanks to a very brash, very brave, and very colorblind, white DJ.
Memphis unfolds as good-for-nothing Huey Calhoun (Chad Kimball) stumbles into a black bar on the wrong side of the tracks in West Memphis in the early 1950s. He quickly professes to the club’s singer Felicia (Montego Glover) that he will play her music on the radio for all of Memphis to hear, much to the dismay of her brother, Delray Jones (J. Bernard Calloway), the owner of the club. Fighting tooth and nail against broadcasting executives, his mother and the very people whose music he is trying to celebrate, Huey manages to capture the number one radio show in the city, thrusting Felicia and “the music of his soul” onto mainstream ears.
If one thing is for sure, a golden Broadway team has been formed between Joe DiPietro and David Bryan. DiPietro has written a story that will break your heart and lift it back up again. Bryan’s music fits beautifully within the show, bringing out the character’s soul at every possible juncture.
As director, Christopher Ashley orchestrated all elements wonderfully. Set pieces flew in and out at a moment’s notice. The costumes were fluffed, puffed, and bright as you might expect of the classic Elvis era. But all of this served as the icing on the cake that was the astounding performance of the talented Memphis cast. Everyone from ensemble member to leading star not only sang their heart out and danced with abandon, but breathed the essence of rock and roll. High notes were hit that I was not aware were possible in the human register.
Now I’m going to pull a Huey hock-a-doo, and slide a pitch your way. If you are down to your last few dollars—something very possible in today’s economic climate—use those George Washingtons to see this show! Not only does Memphis send you home with great music stuck in your brain, it sends a wonderful message about love, tolerance and the power of music to bring us all together.
Review by Gwynn Garland