It is the early 1950s in Memphis, Tennessee, when black and white people were separate and unequal. It was also a time when ‘colored’ music, eventually to be called rock ‘n roll, was filtering into the white world of radio and TV, being taken over by the latter. Huey (Bryan Fenkart), an illiterate white man, falls in love with rock music and Felicia (Felicia Boswell), a black singer, who sings in her brother Delray’s (Horace Rogers) nightclub. Huey comes into the club one night and is not welcomed until he convinces the club people how much their music means to him.
By a set of circumstances Huey becomes a DJ on a Memphis station making it the number 1 station, with playing ‘Negro music’, in the area. He makes a promise to Felicia come true by having her sing in the radio’s studio. She has to sing it live because Huey’s mother (Julie Johnson), due to her own prejudice, breaks the record that Delray and Felicia had saved money to make. A couple of years later, having become lovers, walking Felicia home, Huey kisses her, after asking her to marry him, only to be spotted by a couple of white boys who then proceed to beat her up while holding him back.
The second act starts with both Felicia and Huey being offered a chance to go to New York. She is all for it, thinking that they will not only become famous but would be able to live together openly without fear which was common thinking among black people then. Huey has become a big star on Memphis TV and loves being a big fish in a small pond while Felicia sees her future as a big star, which she always wanted, if she takes the offer. In a desperate attempt to keep Felicia he kisses her on camera on his show and the repercussions are immediate. Though things have changed since the two first met it would take 2-3 more decades for a black woman to be seen in the company of a white man socially let alone kissing.
With a Tony award winning book and score by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan and choreography by Sergio Trujillo, while directed by Christopher Ashley, the shows keeps moving at a lively pace. The musicians are on stage and visible most of the time while the ensemble works hard whether dancing, singing or backing up the main players. There are two show stopping numbers by supporting cast members. Julie Johnson as Mama has a voice that takes it places you didn’t think it could go and Rhett George, playing the club bartender Gator, has the audience holding its own breath wondering how long he could hold a note and then doing it again. The “Memphis” touring company is a good example of a Tony award winning Broadway show.
Act 1 An hour and 15 minutes Intermission 25 minutes Act 2 1 hour Total 2 hours 40 minutes.
Cigarette smoke, strobe lights, gunshot on stage.
Next stop on tour Orlando May 14-19