National Tour Cast
Providence Performing Arts Center
December 4, 2012
The “fantastical” new musical, Memphis, arrived at the Providence Performing Arts Center on December 4th! Memphis deservingly won the Tony Award for Best New Musical in 2010 and also earned Joe DiPietro and David Bryan of Bon Jovi a Tony Award for their impressive rock & roll score.
Synopsis: Memphis tells the story of Huey Calhoun, the first white radio DJ to play black music in 1950’s Memphis, and the talented black nightclub singer, Felicia Farrell. Huey is drawn to “the music of [his] soul”, sung by Felicia at an underground African-American bar, owned by Felicia’s brother, Delray. A promise to get Felicia on the radio, smack dab in the middle of the radio dial, is the beginning of their love story, set against the raging prejudice of the South. After overcoming many obstacles, Huey finally brings Felicia’s voice to the radio, and the music is embraced by the young people of Memphis, but not without cost. Sorry, no spoilers.
Comments: Memphis is the perfect compilation of all the elements of a successful Broadway show. There is no weak link. Memphis boasts powerful vocals, impeccable choreography, smart comedy, rocking music, lovable characters, and an honest and heartwarming story, which culminates in a very satisfying evening of theatre.
It is my belief that Huey Calhoun is one of the most beloved characters to ever grace a Broadway stage, and it requires a special actor to play the part. Bryan Fenkart is one such special actor. As Huey, he nails the physical comedy and encompasses all that is unique, quirky, truthful, and endearing in this beloved character. I saw Bryan Fenkart as Huey (u/s) on Broadway in 2010 and his performance has only improved, if that’s even possible. Bravo. Or should I say, HOCKADOO!
No voice has ever filled the Providence Performing Arts Center like Felicia Boswell’s did on Tuesday night. She is a vocal powerhouse, who gives a fierce, superbly acted performance as nightclub singer, Felicia Farrell. Bravo.
The supporting cast made the very most of their time in the spotlight. The character of Gator may be quiet, but Rhett George’s indelible cry for hope in the final Act I number, “Say A Prayer” is more than memorable. Likewise, as Mama, Julie Johnson’s performance of “Change Don’t Come Easy” was completely over the top and I loved every minute of it! This rousing number was a show highlight! Will Mann’s Bobby gave the audience an unexpected treat with “Big Love”, and Horace V. Rogers brought down the house with the powerful, “She’s My Sister”.
In my experience, a touring show sometimes loses something during the translation from Broadway to National Tour. This is the first touring show I’ve seen in a long time that strengthened as a National Tour. The former Broadway and National Tour casts are so phenomenally talented in their own right, that they can both be enjoyed for what they bring to this spectacular show without comparisons.
And if I haven’t persuaded you to see this show yet, let me mention Huey’s costumes. Words cannot describe. You’ll just have to go check them out yourself. Hockadoo.
The Verdict: A must-see. See it at PPAC before December 9th. Or catch it in Boston before December 23rd.
Check out the Broadway cast's performance at the Tony Awards below.