I have to say I've spent many happy hours in the Shaftebury Theatre. It is so perfectly formed with its delightful foyer and for me it always invokes a joy to be there, in the knowledge I will witness something special.
I'd wanted to see Memphis The Musical for some time and when the kind people at LondonTheatreDirect offered me the chance to realise my trip I was ecstatic!
The show starts with a bang! It's sizzling smoking hot first number set in a blues club is dynamite! Beverley Knight as Felicia a singer in her brothers basement club is simply sensational and having never seen her before I was blown away by her immense powerful vocals which came as a shock from her delicate petite frame. Killian Donnelly plays Huey, a department store employee who has a desire to make music of black origin accessible to all. His quirkiness almost awkward persona was wonderful and when he sung it was divine. Their story telling of forbidden love and drive to make themselves heard was enchantingly portrayed.
Set in Memphis Tennessee during the 1950s this show tells the story of the segregational attitude of the Deep South and questions how music could ever be colour based. Demonstrating a powerful message that it can break down racial barriers, uniting all races and in doing so give rise to the birth of rock and roll.
Rightfully winning two Oliviers for sound (Gareth Owen) and choreography (Sergio Trujillo) I'm utterly surprised that this show did not win more.
Rolan Bell with his booming deeply soulful voice was impressive as brother Delray and his vocals reminded me of Edwin Starr. Charlotte Gorton who played Gladys Huey's mother at this performance was outstanding and her solo's showed how she can take ownership of the role which was really wonderful to see. Jason Pennycooke's acting and dancing was utterly brilliant and Tyrone Huntley was also a joy to watch.
The costumes, staging, lighting and direction all make for fantastical viewing (fans of the show will know what I did there!)
The ensemble were united and on point with every single dance, song and action. Their harmonies particularly in the rousing gospel numbers were awesomely sublime and pitch perfect.
The energy with its vibrant colour and visual spectacle of this show is extreme on every level. The original score which is exciting with its toe tapping soulful melodies catches on your mind and trust me stays there for days especially the finale.
So in summary I would say if you want to be mesmerised, wowed and aghast at a delight of a show go and see Memphis the musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre and when you come out you'll be dancing all the way home shouting Huey's catchphrase 'Hockadoo' at every passer by!
Memphis Review: ★★★★★