Memphis – An Atlanta Theater Fans Review

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Memphis at Atlanta's Fox Theatre

Felicia Boswell, Bryan Fenkart and Will Mann in Memphis. Photo by Paul Kolnik

Memphis will take you back to the days of AM radio when Rock-and-Roll was new and this bluesy new sound was alive and growing in Memphis. Staring Felicia Boswell as Felicia and Bryan Fenkart as Huey, this Tony Award® winning musical captivates the audience with its powerful story, upbeat score and high-energy dance numbers.

Taking place in 1950’s Memphis, the musical tells the story of a rising African-American blues singer (Boswell) who falls in love with a white DJ (Fenkart), who is fighting get this new music played on the radio. Each one must overcome their own doubts and the prejudice of others to achieve their own goals and to grow their own relationship.

While the musical doesn’t break any new ground, it does provide a solidly entertaining night at the theater. With a talented cast and supporting players, any flaws in the plot of the story are overshadowed by the outstanding performances.

Nothing short of amazing, Boswell commands the stage.  Her smooth and powerful vocals  soar through the theater, and the passion of her vocals is equally exemplified in her dancing. The highlight of her numbers is “Colored Woman.” This moving song, combined with her emotional delivery, creates one of the most memorable and inspiring scenes in the musical.

Fenkart’s Huey is a likeable character from the moment he steps onto the stage. His passion for performing matches his character’s passion for Memphis and its music. The character’s quirky antics are funny, but it is his spectacular vocals that make his scenes shine. “Radio,” in particular, allows him to be at his best.  

Memphis at Atlanta's Fox Theatre

Felicia Boswell and the Touring Cast of Memphis. Photo by Paul Kolnik

The strong supporting cast is led by Quenton Earl Darrington who plays Felicia’s brother Delray, Rhett George as Gator and Will Mann as Bobby. A crowd favorite is Julie Johnson as Mama, whose “Change Don’t Come Easy” elicits cheers and thunderous applause.

With an intricate set by David Gallo and dazzling choreography by Sergio Trujillo, the visuals of the musical accent the catchy, moving music written by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan. One aspect of this production that makes it such an audience-pleasing show is the fantastic ensemble. Their feats in “Steal Your Rock ‘N’ Roll” brings the crowd to their feet, clapping and swaying to the music.

Both Boswell and Fenkart each give one of the best performances seen on the Fox Theatre’s stage in recent years. The caliber of their talent and the chemistry the two have together provide the bedrock for a powerful and amazing show. Memphis delights the audience, making it a show not to be missed.

Part of the 2011-2012 Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Atlanta series, Memphis, directed by Christopher Ashley, plays at the Fox Theatre through February 5. For more information, please visit the Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Atlanta website. Tickets are available at the Fox Theatre box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at 1-800-982-2787, or online at www.ticketmaster.com.

– A. Wesley