Magnificent, Marvelous Memphis, Nov. 15 – 20

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TPAC’s Broadway Series presents:

Memphis the Musical (Ages 10 and older)
TPAC’S Jackson Hall
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
782-4040 • tpac.org
Show times: Tue – Thu 7:30 p.m., Fri 8 p.m., Sat 2 and 8 p.m., Sun 1 and 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $28 – $70

Nothing excites me more than discovering an outstanding musical for the first time. Ever since Memphis the Musical opened on Broadway two years ago with so much fanfare, I have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to see it myself, especially after it won four Tony Awards in 2010, including the coveted Best Musical nod.

And kudos to the powers-that-be at TPAC for bringing the first national touring production (that kicked off last month!) to its Jackson Hall stage this week. I’m excited to report that Memphis is my new, favorite musical! It contains everything a truly hands-down, nothing-but-fabulous, Broadway-blessed show SHOULD possess on all counts — a compelling storyline, tremendous music, impeccable choreography and top-notch staging!

Joe DiPietro’s book (he also co-wrote the show’s lyrics) is loosely based on actual events surrounding Dewey Phillips, a Memphis-bred white man who became a disc jockey in the 1950s … the first white DJ to play black rock and roll music across “white radio station” airwaves in Memphis because it was the “music of his soul.”

In Memphis, Dewey is Huey Calhoun, and Bryan Fenkart perfectly captures his character’s heart and soul. His on-stage energy, passion and drive is phenomenal start to finish.

The entire cast exists together on stage in a symbiotic manner I’ve never seen before. Whether a lead, supporting role or ensemble member, EVERYONE on stage delivers important contributions all the way.

The stunning Felicia Boswell plays leading lady Felicia with amazing magnificence. She’s a great, powerful actress, and her spectacular, beautiful vocals succinctly raise the roof on many goose-bump-enabling numbers! Boswell is divine on stage.

A particular nod goes to Rhett George, who plays Gator. His character is an important one who delivers a heartfelt, gut-wrenching rendition of “Say a Prayer” at the end of Act I, following the horrific circumstance that follows the loving embrace between Huey and Felicia, that was considered taboo during that era in history.

Likewise, Julie Johnson as Mama serves up one of the production’s show-stopping numbers with “Change Don’t Come Easy.” She truly surprises the audience with her talent and what she’s got to give; her performance is one of my favorite moments in the show.

The show’s signature song which comes at the end, “Steal Your Rock ‘n’ Roll” is a great representation of all the music that Memphis showcases. It’s a soul-stirring, foot-tapping, hip-swaying, rousing celebration of music and life that knows no boundaries.

Memphis contains a lot of layers within its story, and the racial injustice within the show’s time period is at the forefront. But the sheer beauty of it is the reality of how music brings people together and creates a bond, regardless of whatever kind of “difference” there may be on the outside.

This is definitely a musical you will be sorry to miss if you don’t go see it while it’s in town. You will surely love it, too, and so will your kids.

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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