From the first soul-soaked moments of “Memphis” it's clear that Jasmin Richardson and her powerful pipes are the heart of the show. The musical, a Broadway Across America production is currently on stage at Clowes Memorial Hall. The show opens in the 1950s as Huey, a naïve white man, stumbles into a Beale Street blues club. He's there for the "race music" which he’s drawn to, despite the racial conflict that’s coming to a boil in his southern city. He decides to promote the controversial music despite the objections of his mother and the heads of the local radio stations.
Joey Elrose provides comedic relief with shouts of “Hockadoo” in his goofy portrayal of Huey, but it's Richardson’s performance as club singer Felicia that blows you away. Her renditions of “Someday” and “Colored Woman” are incredible. I would have loved to have heard even more from her during the show. There are moments that feel like a friendlier version of “West Side Story” and others that reckon back to “Hairspray’s” race-fueled TV station drama, but it's Richardson’s performance that takes the musical to the next level and sets it apart.
“Memphis”feels extremely refreshing. Audience members aren’t saddled with any preconceived notions, as is the case when there’s a famous movie version to compare it to. Instead they can sit back and enjoy the music as the plot unfolds. In addition to the talented Richardson, Jerrial T. Young shines as Bobby when he belts out his number “Big Love.” And Avionce Hoyle’s performance of “Say a Prayer” as Gator is sure to give you chills. There’s also a live band on stage performing each song with gusto.
The story reminds us that music can rise above cultural differences and prejudices. It’s easy to get caught up in the songs and forget just how dangerous it was in the south for mixed race couples only 60 years ago. The show does a wonderful job combining great music, humor and a powerful message without losing the balance between those elements.
Don't Miss the Show
The show runs until Sunday, April 6 at Clowes Memorial Hall so hurry to get tickets. Tickets can be purchased at Clowes Memorial Hall, The Murat Theatre, by calling (800)-982-2787 or online here. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
Photos courtesy of Broadway Across America