Every once in awhile, we are fortunate enough to get an all star cast for one of the Broadway touring shows. The current production of the Tony Award Winning Musical, “Memphis”, now onstage at The Cadillac Palace Theatre is just one of those shows. With a book and lyrics by Joe Dipietro and music and lyrics by David Bryan, this is an eye opening story that takes place during the 1950’s in Memphis, where segregation is the way of life. All appears fine until a young white man, Huey Calhoun ( brilliantly handled by Bryan Fenkart), who loves the blues, jazz and gospel music of the negroes, also falls in love with a club singer, Felicia( a powerful performance by the beautiful and talented Felicia Boswell). What we have in this solid story is what many of us lived through during these times, the cultural revolution. While the north was a much easier place for the blending of the cultures, even here in Chicago, we had our “north side clubs” and our “south side clubs”- different music, different dress, different styles of dance and most of us feared to chance the adventure to the “other” clubs.
In this story, Huey makes history by playing black music on a white radio show and watches his ratings go upward as the white kids take to the streets for this “different” rock and roll. His relationship with Felicia has to remain a secret from her family and those around them. Huey has no prejudices. He loves the people he loves and the music as well, but this is the south and so trouble brews from time to time. As he grows in the industry, TV comes next, where he is the white host on a dance show featuring all black dancers. When an opportunity arrives for Felicia to head north, where the can be open, she begs him to do likewise and when he is offered a network tv show, he is excited about being able to live a normal life with Felicia. One problem! They want him, but not his dancers- they must be white. He doesn’t go, Felicia does and becomes a star. Huey ends up on a small time radio station until Felicia, on her way to a concert comes by to invite him and the play ends with the powerful “Steal Your Rock ‘n Roll”.
The songs are strong with lyrics that have meaning and the choreography by Sergio Trujillo and direction by Christopher Ashley makes this a night to remember. In addition to these two leads ( who both come from the original Broadway production as standbys and truly show their remarkable talent for Chicago) there is a strong ensemble and some featured players of note. Julie Johnson is great as Huey’s mother, Quentin Earl Darrington,Rhett George and Will Mann as Delray,Gator and Bobby and William Parry as Mr. Simmons. Add to these performances a brilliant ensemble of singers and dancers and you have what has to be called a production that MUST be seen. Only problem is, you really have to move to do so as it is only here through December 4th with performances as follows:
Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.,Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. and a 2 p.m. matinee on November 30th,Thursday ( December 1st( at 7:30 p.m.,Fridays at 7:30 p.m.,Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. and on the 27th, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets range from $37-$95, a bargain for theater of this quality and can be purchased at any of the Broadway in Chicago box offices, by calling the Broadway In Chicago Ticketline at 800-775-2000, all Ticketmaster outlets and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com
The Cadillac Palace Theatre is located at 151 West Randolph Street
to learn more about this touring company visit www.memphisthemusical.com