December 8, 2011
Reviewed by Paula Citron
Music by David Bryan
Book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro
Directed by Christopher Ashley
Starring Bryan Fenkart, Felicia Boswell, Quentin Earl Darrington, Rhett George, Julie Johnson, Will Mann and William Parry
Toronto Centre for the Arts
Dec. 6 to 24, 2011
The Tony Award-winning musical Memphis is based on the life of Dewey Phillips, in the show call Huey Calhoun, who was the first southern white DJ in the 1950s to play black music.
The show suffers from a weak book, sloppy ending and director Christopher Ashley’s cliché characterizations.
But…making up for the faults is the sensational choreography of Canadian Sergio Trujillo, and the fabulous R&B dominated score with lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music by David Bryan (of Bon Jovi fame). Paul Tazewell’s costumes are gloriously period.
Trujillo makes the 1950s choreography look both of the time and original. Muscular, robust and highly physical, his dancers eat up the stage.
Bryan Fenkart is engaging as Huey despite his “gee whiz” mannerisms. Felicia Boswell as the female lead has a great voice but elongates her vowels to the point of word distortion. Julie Johnson as Huey’s cracker mother steals the show.
Memphis continues at the Toronto Centre for the Arts until Dec. 24.