A month or so ago, my parents came to visit London and we wanted to see a show. I quickly suggested Memphis, having been tempted by all the posters dotted around the Underground, and we weren’t disappointed.
The show opens as it means to go on, with a radio DJ welcoming us into the lively Downtown, at Delray’s club. Cue shock as Huey (Matt Cardle), a white man, enters this club on ‘the dark side of town’, soon winning over their trust singing about his love for ‘the music of my soul’ – what was, at the time, referred to as ‘race music’.
Set in Memphis in the 1950s, the show is set against a backdrop of extreme racial tension, challenged by the growing relationship between Felicia, a promising young singer, and Huey, an aspiring radio DJ. What follows is a beautiful story both of a fight against racism, a love story, and a story of family loyalty, all taking place among the vibrant Memphis music scene.
The music of this show is simply stunning. I’ve listened to the soundtrack countless times since seeing the show and would rank it as one of my favourite show soundtracks (and believe me, I’ve seen a LOT of musicals!) Particular favourites are ‘The Music of my Soul’, ‘Love Will Stand’ and ‘Steal Your Rock and Roll’.
We were lucky enough to go whilst Beverley Knight was still playing as Felicia, alongside Matt Cardle’s Huey. Knight, firstly, was as brilliant as I had expected her to be. Her voice is just phenomenal, and she handled the character of Felicia so delicately, playing her more ‘sassy’ and her more emotional scenes beautifully. Rolan Bell, too, who played Felicia’s brother Delray, had an exquisite voice - so deep and distinctive - meaning I can’t stop listening to ‘She’s My Sister’.
The absolute stand-out of the show, for me, was Mr Cardle. We all know he can sing, from his X Factor days, but I had no idea what to expect from his acting. Performing with a faultless accent throughout, he presented the wacky, at times uncertain, at times naïve, but always passionate Huey to perfection. His dance moves were full of enthusiasm, and it was totally believable that this was a character who just loves and adores music.
The rest of the cast were all fantastic singers, of course, but the dancing was my real favourite – routine after routine, from the most tightly choreographed to those appearing more ‘freestyle’, were so high-energy, and there wasn’t a cast member who was only half-committed.
The story of ‘Memphis’ had numerous unexpected twists, and was a full-rounded story taking the audience through every emotion in the book. My mum was sobbing, and she’s not someone that cries at t show or film easily! We felt every emotion, from elation to sadness to horror to sympathy, and I would have watched it again the very next day if I could.
I recommended the show to so many people, and am gutted it has just closed. I hope it will tour, or be revived, as it would be such a waste to lose a show of such quality, which appears to have been loved by audiences and critics, alike.