The show’s two leads in particular – Beverley Knight as club singer Felicia Farrell and Killian Donnelly as radio DJ Huey Calhoun – are singled out for praise in the reviews.
The Tony Award-winning show also includes some strong cast support including Rolan Bell as Delray, Tyrone Huntley as Gator, Claire Machin as Gladys, Jason Pennycooke as Bobby and Mark Roper as Mr. Simmons.
Memphis has a Grammy Award-winning original score by Bon Jovi founding member David Bryan and book by Joe DiPietro and is inspired by true events from the underground dance clubs of 1950s Memphis, Tennessee, following the fame and forbidden love of a radio DJ who wants to change the world and a club singer who is ready for her big break.
What We Thought
We absolutely loved Memphis – as did the audience on the preview performance we saw.
Every single element of the show nails it completely – including the incredible performances (and that goes for the ensemble as well as the leads), and the slick staging and choreography… you don’t often see a cast of this size and at the level they are performing.
The songs are like classics you are hearing for the first time – which is quite something given the volume of jukebox shows at the moment.
Surely to God it is going to win awards and run for years. If they can keep up the quality of the performances and the incredible energy then it deserves to.
"We all know that Beverley Knight, who plays Felicia, is one of the best soul singers around, and she duly combines charisma and power. But, as I’ve never seen The Commitments stage show, the Irish-born Killian Donnelly is new to me and something of a revelation. He conveys all of Huey’s good-natured naivety while also proving, as he tips his titfer over his brows like a boy Sinatra, that he can punch across a song with real panache." Read more
The Daily Telegraph
"It [Memphis] boasts some of the most thrilling vocal work you’ll find on the London stage, in its roof-raising evocation of the birth of rock’n’ roll. The UK production’s star draw is “British soul queen” Beverley Knight. Her voice is so extraordinary – seemingly containing the force of a blast furnace – that were she signed to do just one number, this would still be an event. But she’s at the loud-beating heart of the evening, playing Felicia, a demure young black singer who is talent-spotted by an aspiring, rebel-minded white DJ called Huey." Read more
"There’s sharp support from Rolan Bell as Felicia’s gruff brother Delray and Claire Machin as Huey’s amusingly grumpy mother. But it is the vocal gloriousness of Knight and charisma of Donnelly which make a show that’s not exactly innovative feel fabulous." Read more
"Knight effortlessly soars through the musical numbers - while Donnelly brings wit and great humour to the production." Read more
"Predictable story, good music, great performances: the latest Broadway import, Memphis, should sell a packet, thanks to its two stars, British Beverley Knight and Irish Killian Donnelly and a general feelgood wallop." Read more
"Director Christopher Ashley and choreographer Sergio Trujillo try to put as much vigour into the movement as there was in that other race-music-on-TV musical Hairspray at this address a few years ago, and there can never be such a thing as a bad show with the pocket rocket Jason Pennycooke in the cast. In the end, though, it’s a bit of a whitewash." Read more
"It’s a plucky producer who launches a big new West End musical that is neither based on a film nor stuffed with old hits. Yet while I salute the good intentions of Memphis, a brilliantly performed Broadway hit that depicts a forbidden love affair between a black R&B singer and an upstart white disc jockey in the segregated American South of the 1950s, this pleasant enough evening neither rocked me nor rolled me over." Read more
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