This article is more of the reasons why you need to see Memphis at the Shaftesbury Theatre, rather than a review of it. This new musical has definitely captured my imagination (as well as the many audiences) and is a master class in how a new show should be constructed.
1. Original Music
I enjoy Juke Box Musicals there is no denying this fact, but what really excites me is hearing an original score. With numbers that include ‘Everyone Wants To Be Black On A Saturday Night' and ‘Steal your Rock ‘n’ Roll’ Composer David Bryan and lyricist Joe DiPietro have created some memorable authentic sounding music. From high energy numbers to more emotive songs that capture the racial tensions that sadly were felt in Memphis in the 1950’s.
2. A Great Plot
Like any great Musical a strong plot is imperative and this definitely is the case with Memphis. Two people in love and share a great passion of music, this is the perfect scenario, well it would be if this wasn’t 1951 Memphis and the lady was black and the man white. The couple Felicia and Huey sadly have to hide their relationship which is heard when both are performers and when it is discovered the results are heartbreaking.
3. Perfect Casting
When I saw Memphis the two leads Felicia and Huey were played by Beverley Knight and Killian Donnelly. These two are literally gold encrusted dynamite together with such incredible chemistry and incredible singing, they really are a credit to the production. The role of Huey’s ignorant and old fashioned mother Gladys, whose heart starts to melt throughout the show, is well cast with the actress Claire Machin. Bobby the radio station dogs-body is another notable character who has precise comic timing that is certainly delivered by Jason Pennycooke.
4. Sharp Choreography
Winning an Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreographer with Memphis, Sergio Trujillo is certainly a tour de force. The choreography is certainly one of the many highlights of Memphis with the ensemble embodying the 1950’s and 1960’s very well indeed especially during Huey’s TV Show.
Killian Donnelly is a comedic master, this is a fact. Whether he is shouting Huey’s catchphrase Hockadoo on his radio or TV to interacting with Felicia with an adorable naivety and adoration there is no denying the great charisma that he possesses. There are a lot of comic turns by the cast but Killian is a shining light of comedy in the role of Huey that really has to be one of the best male musical roles in the west end at the moment.
6. Beverley Knight’s Singing Voice
In one word…PHENOMENAL.
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