Monday, October 05, 2009


"Memphis" at the Shubert Theatre, October 2, 2009

The twenty-two plus producers of "Memphis" bring this new musical to Broadway with a tale of Huey (Chad Kimball) and Felicia (Montego Glover), a high school drop out cum disc jockey and the singer he discovers singing in a south side Memphis nightclub in the late 1950s.

Think "Dreamgirls" meets "Hairspray."

Mr. Kimball's Huey schemes and plans for a big break, falling in love with Ms. Glover's Felicia along the way. There's not a lot of chemistry between them, however. Ms. Glover is lovely and a terrific singer. She brings much more to the production. It's too bad the material isn't as strong a she is. The energy is high, and the production values are far above the book and miles above the lyrics, both contributed by Joe DiPietro. David Bryan offers an excellent pastiche score when featuring the period "radio" songs. When the music is called on to move the plot or expand a moment, things tend to falter into cliche.

Sergio Trujillo's choreography keeps the energy high and director Christopher Ashley supports accordingly. David Gallo has been given half of an apparently unlimited budget, and has spent every dime with full width bridges, multiple trapdoor elevators and spinning columns. Paul Tazewell's costumes spend the rest of the budget on some gorgeous clothes. All this flash and polish looks great, but ultimately undercuts the impact by glossing over the roughness that would really have been found at the time, particularly a south side club in 1950s Memphis.

Still, it's an entertaining evening with the potential for a popular following.

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