Memphis has been in London’s West End since last September, and even though I am a frequent theatre-goer, I’ve just not had the chance to see it. It was on the list with War Horse, Made in Dagenham (which I missed) and Beautiful – the Carole King Musical.
But I can now cross it off!
On Monday, I took a walk in the sunshine to the Shaftesbury Theatre, took my seat in the stalls and waited for the show to start. It’s not often that I see a musical that I don’t know at least one song from. It was so nice to be going in to see a show with nothing to base my opinion on and no other performances to compare the actors with. A Tony Award winning Broadway transfer too!
I was very excited!
“Inspired by true events from the underground dance clubs of 1950s Memphis, Tennessee, Memphis follows the fame and forbidden love of a radio DJ who wants to change the world and a club singer who is ready for her big break”.
It tells the story of Felica Farrell, the club singer desperate to make it big, and Huey Calhoun, the wannabe radio DJ, who wants to play the music he loves and is passionate about, rather than what is expected of him. We follow them through the highs and lows of their careers, whilst also seeing what it was like to live and try to be true to yourself in that time.
Felica is played by Beverley Knight, and from the moment she steps on stage she is a force to be reckoned with. Having previously been blown away by her in The Bodyguard, her West End debut, I was intrigued to see how her acting skills have grown, and they really have! By having an original character to work with, her acting ability shone.
I actually went in expecting her equally talented understudy, as Knight is usually off on Monday, so seeing her burst onto the stage in the first number was a pleasant surprise.
She was on tonight because it was her new co-stars first performance. That said, if you were not aware of this, you really wouldn’t have noticed. The electric atmosphere in the auditorium suited the show, and I imagine most nights are like that.
Matt Cardle took to the stage like a duck to water, as the endearing Huey Calhoun. Slightly stupid, but ever so adorable, you fell in love right away. Cardle had huge stage presence, and even though I was extremely sceptical, as I always am when stunt casting happens in theatre land, I was so happy to be proven wrong. Although he’s a seasoned singer, his performance was solid and confident, and I can’t wait to see him before the show closes to see how his performance has progressed.
With a strong ensemble of incredible dancers, the show manages to be both funny and extremely moving, especially when dealing with race and segregation. With original songs, David Bryan (music and lyrics) and Joe DiPietro (lyrics and book) managed to get tunes stuck in my head like the classics from the era the show was set in.
During the curtain call you could see the relief in Matt Cardle’s face that his first show had gone so well, him and the cast received a well-earned standing (and dancing) ovation, and I will definitely be going to see the show again before it closes in October.
You can buy tickets at here at the Memphis website, They have shows Monday to Saturday with matinees Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Are you planning to see the show, or have you already? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!