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Memphis The Musical

Published October 24, 2014

What’s it all about?

Aimless white boy with little going for him finds salvation and passion in black music. This being 1950s Tennessee, that in itself is bad enough. But when he finds he has a talent for DJing and bringing the black rhythm and blues sound to the white masses, and when he falls in love with a black singer, there are inevitable tensions and reprisals.

Who’s in it?

Killian Donnelly, fresh from The Commitments, is the perfect Huey, giving the wannabe DJ oodles of endearing nerdy charm that fizzes into quick-lipped irreverent chatter any time he’s near a microphone.

Beverley Knight, having got a taste for musical theatre after starring in The Bodyguard, makes a sexy and sassy yet fragile Felicia. And boy, can she sing?! We should know this already, of course, but blimey she’s got some lungs.

When Knight combines with Donnelly for the first time in for the club-set Music Of My Soul, they are a treat for the ears that hints at the delights that will follow.

Rolan Bell prowls the stage as protective big brother Delray, his voice as deep and threatening yet enticing as a dimly lit cave, and Jason Pennycooke proves a delightfully impish Bobby.

What should I look out for?

The actions which cut through the energy and joy that pushes the show forward, not least the first time the N word is dropped like a linguistic bomb on the Shaftesbury stage.

Sergio Trujillo’s glorious choreography that more often than not brings half the cast together performing moves so infectious it took trained self-control and an eager interest in not blocking the view of others to stop me leaping out of my seat and trying to join in.

The moment you realise that, whether you like it or not, you will now be exclaiming Hockadoo at random moments for at least the next week or so.

What will I be humming?

Bon Jovi’s David Bryan has created a score that, from the very first note, has the audience tapping their feet, bobbing their heads and trying hard not to make their dancing too obvious.

The light and cheery Some Day brings joy and breeziness to the heart, evoking a summer walk in the park, while the gospel style of Make Me Stronger raises the spirits. The anthem to home, Memphis Lives In Me, had me welling up, but I suspect the final upbeat crowd-pleaser Steal Your Rock ‘n’ Roll will be the one you’re humming as you dance down the street unwittingly shouting Hockadoo every 10 or so paces.

In a nutshell?

Ten out of ten(nessee) for this feel-good musical that hides a gritty moral core. Audiences won’t be walking in Memphis, they’ll be dancing, cheering and standing to applaud.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@AliceHigginson_Cracking evening at the opening night of #MemphisMusical such great tunes that gave me shivers! @Beverleyknight was stunning!

@ConnieGlover Absolutely amazing #MemphisMusical – totally blown away!!

Will I like it?

An outstanding cast. Two leads with voices made for this music. Songs that set your spine a-shivering. Warmth. Wit. An alligator mask. What’s not to like? Hocka-do get yourself a ticket now.

Memphis The Musical is booking at the Shaftesbury Theatre until 28 March 2015. You can book tickets through us.

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