Every Christmas, my family like to arrange a trip, usually involving dinner followed by some sort of show. This year, the show we chose to see was ‘Memphis’. Despite having only been open in the Westend for 2 months, ‘Memphis’ has received rave reviews so I had fairly big expectations. I can tell you now, it did not disappoint! Set in 1950’s Memphis, the story follows the forbidden love story of Huey – a quirky, scruffy and hugely popular radio DJ – and Felicia, a talented African-American club singer, whom Huey promises to make famous. As a history graduate and a fan of jazz and blues music, this is a period of time I am fascinated by, and for me there were times where ‘Memphis’ poignantly demonstrated the backlash that was felt due to the rising success of black recording artists in the 1950’s.
The production of the show was incredible, with a whole ensemble of amazing dancers and singers, all of which were recognisably talented in their own right. There were so many costume changes and each one was so well put together in order to really represent the movement through time. Similarly, the set was so unique and inventive – at one point, to represent the changing of a song on the radio, one singer was replaced with another by a moving conveyor belt across the stage. The show was filled with little touches like this which made it so visually amazing to watch!
Now, the real selling point of ‘Memphis’ is the incredible talent of the entire cast. We were lucky enough to be sitting in the third row, so we could really feel the energy and passion coming from the stage. For me though, and probably for everyone else in the room, none of the cast shone as brightly as the character Felicia, who was played by Beverley Knight (remember ‘Shoulda Woulda Coulda’ from 2002? Yeah that was her). Now, if I had a pound for every time I got goosebumps from Beverly Knight hitting a perfect note I would never have to work again. I was literally blown away by how incredible and versatile her voice was throughout, and for me, her raw talent and soulful voice is what made the show. The most breathtaking song in my opinion, was ‘Coloured Woman’ which came at a moment in which Felicia was feeling the pressure of trying to make it as a singer in an era of racial segregation, while balancing a relationship with a white man. Here’s a version I found on Youtube:
I’m not the biggest fan of musicals in general. I often find them cheesy and although the songs can be catchy, they’re not songs i’d find myself downloading. Having said that, it’s undeniable that this show is filled to the brim with talented actors, singers, and dancers. It was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an evening and a show I won’t forget in a hurry. I urge any Westend lovers to go and see this now!