I’m sure I’ve mentioned it on the blog before, but my husband and I have season tickets to the touring Broadway shows at the Hippodrome in Baltimore. Last night we saw Memphis. It was by far (at least in my opinion) the best show we’ve seen this season (my husband liked The Addams Family more) and one of the better shows I’ve seen in the past few years.
It won a number of Tonys in 2010 including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score. The story takes place in 1950s Memphis during the birth of Rock and Roll. Huey Calhoun is a poor, kind of odd white boy who loves the rhythm and blues he hears at black clubs on Beale Street. He becomes enthralled with Felicia, a night club singer and vows that he’s going to get her music played on the radio. It’s a promise he is eventually able to keep, but Memphis isn’t necessarily ready to embrace black culture fully or a mixed race relationship between Huey and Felicia.
It’s a really moving story touching on a lot of painful topics, while also being written with a lot humor. Memphis definitely has one of the better books I’ve seen in a Broadway musical in a long time. I really enjoyed the music as well. The songs do a really good job of both feeling like they belong in and were written for a musical while also having the feel of 1950s rock and roll. I’m kind of over musicals that just try to shoe horn already existing songs into a musical (see Mamma Mia, Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages, etc.). I actually enjoyed all those shows, but they don’t have the same feel to me as musicals with original music.
The performers in this touring cast were really amazing as well. They had some really powerful voices, and some of the songs required some amazing feats of voice which they pulled off with aplomb. If you get a chance I would highly recommend seeing it. The show is playing in Baltimore through Sunday. If you don’t live in Baltimore look out for the tour coming to a city near you or go see it on Broadway where it is still running.
Now enjoy the song “Someday”, which is Felicia’s first radio hit and one of the songs I really liked from the musical.