Loosely based on a true story, “Memphis” is about a DJ in 1950s Tennessee who helped give R & B music and rock n’ roll a lift from a downstairs Beale street bar to the mainstream music world, a world that eventually stretched from radio to television. It wasn’t easy for him to go from being a stock boy to a radio personality, but the music provided the momentum.
The DJ, Huey, played by Bryan Fenkart, is smitten by more than just what was known as the “underground” music of that racist time. He also falls for a talented young woman, Felicia, played by the beautiful and talented Felicia Boswell. Frankly, Felicia and Huey look a little mismatched. He’s somewhat plain and less than magnetic. (His favorite yell-out line is “The name is Huey Calhoun. Goodnight and Hockadoo!”) Felicia is a looker with a voice that has infers stardom in her future.
Growing careers and a sincere but forbidden relationship for that era guide the dramatic push for this story. Along the way, perhaps a few more pages could have been added to flesh out the societal issues and give them a little more meaning.
But what “Memphis” is really all about is the musical explosion and transitions of that time, as demonstrated by the athletic and exiting choreography that permeates the evening. It should be noted that three members in the ensemble of “Memphis” got their careers started at The Muny. They are Kent Overshown, Derek St. Pierre and Jody Reynard.
“Memphis” is an ensemble show and a labor of love that quickly scoops up an audience. It will be on stage at The Fox until May 13th. In a town that gave voice to the likes of Chuck Berry, “Memphis” is a story about how it all began, and how the influences of that time are still heard in the music world this very day.