Shaftesbury Theatre: Memphis the Musical – Review

It’s Monday 13th October 2014. I got up at 4:30am to queue for 15th Anniversary Lion King Tickets in the pouring rain. It’s now 7:20pm and I’m outside Shaftesbury Theatre, ready to see Memphis the Musical! Having researched very little about it and being unsure of what to expect, I was highly anticipating the show for the evening.

Set in the 1950s, Memphis the Musical highlights the emerging popularity of black music through heart-warming and thought provoking themes such as an interracial love story and uniting others with a common love of music in an era where ‘coloured records’ were frowned upon.

Huey Calhoun (Killian Donnelly), a white working class retail assistant, is fired from his job and thrown into the spotlight after hijacking a radio station to play African American music to an audience that previously did not welcome black records. He discovers Felicia (Beverly Knight), in an underground rock and roll bar. Huey Calhoun disregards the underlying racial tension to share his love for African American music to other radio listeners.

His gentle yet determined persona carries the production forward. Coupled with a strong and compelling storyline and good characterisation, the production creates a rich experience that an audience member is transported into. I couldn’t help but root for the characters throughout the show!

Although the lead actors carry the production forward, I felt that the pacing of the musical slowed drastically towards the middle of the show where there were a lot of ‘filler’ scenes that did not add much to the value of the show itself. The pace quickly picked up again after the interval.

Overall, Memphis the Musical has a gripping storyline with high energy dance chorography and uplifting songs that will ensure a smile when you leave the theatre. The lead actors, Killian Donnelly and Beverly Knight excel in their roles, I left with the theatre with goose bumps! It is a unique addition to the West End with underlying themes such as social injustice, racism and class divide weaved beautifully into a story that translates into a dynamic and memorable performance.

Round up

  • Favourite Song: Steal Your Rock ‘n’ Roll.
  • Seat: I sat in seat R26 in the stalls. My seat was more towards the back of the stalls, but the view was clear and unobstructed and I still felt immersed within the musical.
  • Show running time is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes. The show runs Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm and Wednesday & Saturday at 2.30pm.
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