he strong, rich musical heritage of Memphis, Tenn. inspired some of the greatest artists of all time and one of Broadway's most exhilarating musicals, Memphis, playing in Detroit, April 9-21, 2013.
Elvis Presley is just one of the greats influenced by the gospel, rhythm and blues and country music born in Memphis. He even recorded an album in the city at the American Sound Studio in 1969 titled "Elvis in Memphis."
The music is just as identifiable and undeniable as the Memphis drawl that makes its natives and residents sing their words – where "Mmm-mmm" sounds more like a lyric that dances off the tongue than just some common phrase to describe the goodness of a "Dupont" beer.
The music, drawl and all the things to love about one of the country's musical meccas is on full display at the Fisher Theatre where Memphis opened this week.
It's the 1950s and Memphis is completely segregated – from its clubs and water fountains to its music. A young, white DJ named Huey Calhoun loves soul music, the people who sing it and a beautiful, black singer named Felicia. The two fall in love and change the musical landscape of the city, which is met with several cultural, familial and emotional challenges from both sides of the fence. And it is all weaved into a soulful journey of love and rock 'n' roll.
Bryan Fenkart gives a grounded, exhilarating performance as Calhoun. He has the cool, romantic and gentleman-like behavior you expect from a good Southern boy. But, he is also very sweet and charming as he tries to court and win over the much more confident and sassy Felicia.
Fenkart's vocals are strong with sweet nuances and textures. His acting is equally impressive and substantial.
Felicia Boswell plays the character of Felicia in Memphis alongside Fenkart.
There are those rare, special moments when someone gets on stage and makes every single person in the theater fall in love with her. It is one thing to have a beautiful voice, which Boswell has, but it is certainly another to have "it" – that thing that wraps an audience around a performer's finger – and she has that special quality.
Even when she was merely just walking across the stage, Boswell engaged everyone in the room. And when she opened her mouth to sing songs like "Love Will Stand When All Else Falls," time stood still.
Other show standouts include Rhett George as Gator, the magnificent and surprisingly agile Will Mann and Julie Johnson – who stars as Gladys, Calhoun's mother. She sings "Change Don't Come Easy" with power, soul and a beautiful rasp in her voice that shines at the top of her range.
The show's choreography by Sergio Trujillo is athletic but graceful. There are funky, high-energy routines but the dancing is also very elegant and precise.
Everything about Memphis – from the dancing to the music and lyrics by David Bryan and Joe DiPietro – leaves your spirits high, your mind open and your heart full.
Ticket prices range from $34 to $89. Show times are 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, along with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays, plus 7:30 p.m. performances on Sundays.
For more information on Memphis at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit, see the BLAC Detroit calendar listing.