Anyone who knows me knows that I adore MEMPHIS. Back in 2011, I had the opportunity to see the show on Broadway and I met the fantastical Chad Kimball. Later that year, I went to see the Direct from Broadway showings at my local movie theater (yes, I went 3 times). You could say I'm a bit obsessed. Now here I am, a year later at the first National Tour cast's party in my hometown of Buffalo, NY. MEMPHIS opened this Tuesday, June 5th. Needless to say, of course I was there! I had heard amazing things about this cast, but I thought, "Nothing could compare to Broadway; they have such big shoes to fill." I was blown away.
MEMPHIS is the 2010 Tony Award-Winning Musical with a book and lyrics from Joe DiPietro and music from Bon Jovi's David Bryan. Set in the 1950s, this outstanding musical focuses on a white DJ, Huey Calhoun, (Bryan Fenkart) and his romance with an up-and-coming African American singer, Felicia Farrell, (coincidentally, Felicia Boswell). An original story about Huey's vision, Felicia's voice, and the birth of rock 'n' roll, MEMPHIS delivers an unforgettable score, breathtaking dancing, and powerful emotions.
Boswell and Fenkart brought something so new and fresh to their respective characters. As Felicia Farrell, Ms. Boswell commands the stage and delivers an irresistible, passionate performance night after night. Bryan's quirky yet adorably charming Huey is persistent in everything he does and you can tell that no one could ever steal his rock 'n' roll.
I also must mention that Mama, played by Julie Johnson, was fabulous. Her riffing at the end of "Change Don't Come Easy" was superlative and had the audience cheering! Rhett George's soulful "Say a Prayer" had many, including myself, in tears and Delray's (Quentin Earl Darrington) love for Felicia was eminent in "She's My Sister." Will Mann's portrayal of Bobby brought the house down with his "Big Love"; the swing and ensemble killed it with their fantastical dance moves; and I could go on and on. Seeing MEMPHIS three times in one week might seem insane to some people, but it brought back the music of my soul and was just as memorable and exhilarating as when I first saw it on Broadway.
Now, here I am at the cast party and I feel like I've known these folks for forever. As I walk around introducing myself, I can't help but feel like part of the Memphis family. The entire cast delivered a flawless performance from beginning to end. You'd think that doing the same show day after day could be monotonous, but there was so much energy and passion in everything they did. The cast put their heart and soul into each performance, leaving a lasting impression with those who had the opportunity to see it at Shea's. Just unbelievable. What a great way to end our season here in Buffalo. I'd like to wish the cast a big "Hockadoo!" as they travel on to Washington, D.C this week.
And remember, tickets for the 2012-2013 Broadway Series are now on sale! Our upcoming season will be one not to miss! For information, please visit www.sheas.org or call 716-847-0850. Single show ticket sale dates will be announced eventually.
Article Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik
Other Photos: Bob Rich III