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Memphis The Musical a Spirited Show

by Rita Kohn
April 1, 2014
Clowes Memorial Hall of Butler University
4602 Sunset Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46208
317-940-6444
This review was originally published in NUVO Newsweekly, Indianapolis, IN.

Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association.

Memphis The Musical
Book and Lyrics by Joe DiPietro, Music and Lyrics by David Bryan based on a concept by George W. George.
Memphis The Musical is at the heart a story of a quirky self-made dj and a singer he "discovered". It is best described as a spirited dancing show from curtain up to down.

With its cast matching Sergio Trujillo's original high-energy choreography with tricky footwork and ever changing architecture, it's an experience of people who move with life's ebb and flow.

We've already experienced Trujillo's choreography with Broadway in Indianapolis favorite Jersey Boys. This season Trujillo's distinctive approach to choreography comes to us with Flashdance The Musical, Memphis The Musical and the forthcoming The Addams Family.

On Broadway currently Trujillo's choreography is represented by the award-winning Memphis The Musical, Jersey Boys, The Addams Family and Next to Normal. He is a dancers' choreographer whose Broadway roles include Jerome Robbins' Broadway, Guys and Dolls and Fosse. His roots are in a combination of classical ballet, modern, contemporary jazz, hip-hop and the sexy jazz he describes as "true flashdance style". This eclectic experience allows him to choreograph each show toward its own distinctive character.

One can't call Memphis The Musical a "feel good show" in line with Flashdance The Musical where we cheered the working-class heroine Alex Owens toward achieving her dream to enter Pittsburgh's elite ballet academy. With Memphis, we're more likely to take sides between the characters Huey Calhoun (Joey Elrose), for whom Memphis, the city is fine enough and Felicia (Jasmin Richardson) whose calling becomes a career in New York City.

From discovery to dispatch, the story hinges on racial issues, social class and personal choices. Twists and turns, surprises and clichés intermingle with unsettling truths and fictions. Huey, who never learned to read, has an uncanny sense of music that drives him to achieve and irritate people. Felicia, whose elegance is more than a cut above Huey's upbringing endears herself. Vocally, Memphis has moments that will appeal to some and not others in the audience. The fine on-stage band, lighting design and highly serviceable set add to an overall affirmative experience. Did it really happen this way in Memphis? Maybe. But there's a bitter-sweet irony in the song "Everybody Wants to Be Black on a Saturday Night."
Jasmin Richardson as 'Felicia' and Joey Elrose as 'Huey' in the National Touring Cast of MEMPHIS.

Jasmin Richardson as "Felicia" and Joey Elrose as "Huey" in the National Touring Cast of MEMPHIS.

Photo © & courtesy of Jeremy Daniel


Jasmin Richardson as 'Felicia,' Avionce Hoyles as 'Gator,' Jerrial T. Young as 'Bobby' and Joey Elrose as 'Huey' and the National Touring Cast of MEMPHIS.

Jasmin Richardson as "Felicia," Avionce Hoyles as "Gator," Jerrial T. Young as "Bobby" and Joey Elrose as "Huey" and the National Touring Cast of MEMPHIS.

Photo © & courtesy of Jeremy Daniel


The 'Be Black Trio' in the National Touring Company of MEMPHIS.

The "Be Black Trio" in the National Touring Company of MEMPHIS.

Photo © & courtesy of Jeremy Daniel

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