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a Musical
by Joe DiPietro (book & lyrics) and David Bryan (music & lyrics)

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 4756

SHOWING : July 23, 2015 - August 30, 2015



The birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll in the South happened in Memphis, but there is a lot more to this story than Graceland. Inspired by true events, pioneering disc jockey Huey Calhoun moves this iconic sound from radio to TV. Winner of the 2010 Tony Award for Best Musical.

Director Tom Key
Music Director Ann-Carol Pence
Ensemble Rose Alexander
Ensemble Greg Bosworth
Ensemble Skyler Brown
Felicia Naima Carter
Ensemble Fenner Eaddy
Ensemble Tina Fears
Ensemble Judith Franklin
Ensemble Caroline Freedlund
Ensemble Marcus Hopkins-Turner
Mr. Simmons Matt Lewis
Ensemble Edward McCreary
Gladys Megan McFarland
Bobby Eric D. Moore
Mr. Collins Bill Murphey
Ensemble Kathleen O’Hara
Ensemble Robby Owenby
Gator Eugene H. Russell IV
Ensemble Benjamin Sims
Huey Travis Smith
Ensemble Xylina Stamper
Ensemble India Sada Tyree
Ensemble Brian Walker
Delray Jones Cecil E. Washington Jr.
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High-Powered Entertainment
by playgoer
Monday, July 27, 2015
"Memphis" is a well-written show with a rousing score and an affecting story of interracial love. It may not be the perfect match for Gwinnett County audiences -- I noticed an older white male leaving the auditorium at the time of the first interracial kiss. I’d like to think that was just a coincidence, but the fact that some people did not return after intermission is an indication that the show is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Tom Key has directed the show to keep the action moving. Shannon Roberts’ set facilitates the flow, consisting of a series of proscenium arches with an empty space in the middle, to allow various set pieces to move in and out. A spiral staircase stage left and a recording studio window stage right allow action to move occasionally to a higher second level, which is principally populated by the (as always) terrific band, led by Ann-Carol Pence. Andre Allen’s lighting design is perfectly serviceable, although it tends to make a lot of use of flashing lights embedded in the proscenium arches to goose up the musical numbers.

Daniel Terry’s sound design makes things perfectly audible, without overdoing the volume. MC Park has created some nifty props, in particular a TV camera that provides live video feed for the television show segments. Shilla Benning’s costumes are no more than acceptable, with no particular sense of style. Waverly Lucas’ choreography is equally lackluster, perhaps hampered by the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a surfeit of dance skills in the ensemble (although I’ve seen enough of Caroline Freedlund Aropoglou’s work to know she’s capable of far more sophisticated moves than the ones she’s asked to perform here).

What makes the show work so well is the cast. Naima Carter Russell is beauty and talent rolled into one in the lead female role of Felicia Farrell, and Travis Smith equals her in every respect (except beauty) in the lead male role of Huey Calhoun. Those two could make the show by themselves, were they not surrounded by such a talented ensemble. Eric Moore and Eugene H. Russell IV are splendid as Bobby and Gator, two of the denizens of the bar run by Delray Jones (Cecil Washington Jr., who is also very good). Megan McFarland plays Huey’s mother, and she has a voice that impresses as much as that of any of the younger cast members. Vocally, the show is wonderful. There are some very nice acting turns too, one notably being the waif-like Kathleen O’Hara appearing as a white teenager visiting a black church.

"Memphis" is being co-produced by Aurora and Theatrical Outfit, so the same production (perhaps with some scenic changes) will be presented downtown in September. That gives audience members plenty of chances to see the show, which is already selling out. It’s well worth the trip, no matter which venue you choose, to engulf yourself in the immersive experience that is "Memphis." [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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