Memphis is a musical by David Bryan (music and lyrics) and Joe DiPietro (lyrics and book). It is loosely based on Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips, one of the first white DJs to play black music in the 1950s. It played on Broadway from October 19, 2009 to August 5, 2012. This production won four 2010 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The show was previously staged at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Massachusetts and TheatreWorks in Mountain View, California during the 2003-04 season, as well as the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle during the 2008-2009 season.
- 1 Synopsis
- 2 Productions
- 3 Cast and characters
- 4 Musical numbers
- 5 Critical reception
- 6 Awards and nominations
- 7 Film adaptation
- 8 References
- 9 External links
There's a party at Delray's, an underground black Rock and Roll bar in 1950s Memphis ("Underground"). Huey Calhoun, a white man, arrives on the scene. The regulars begin to leave, but Huey convinces them to stay, claiming he is there for the music ("The Music of My Soul"). Later, Huey is about to be fired from his job as a stock boy at a local department store, but he makes a deal with the owner, if he can sell 5 records by playing them over the speakers, he can have a sales job. Huey plays a rock & roll hit ("Scratch My Itch"). He sells 29 records in five minutes, but the store owner fires him anyway, incensed at the type of music being played.
Huey returns to Delray's club, and begins flirting with Felicia, Delray's talented sister, and promises to get her on the radio ("Ain't Nothin' But a Kiss"). Huey then proceeds to apply for DJ jobs at various local white radio stations. One of the owners, Mr. Simmons, invites him in, saying he'll show him what a 'real' DJ looks like. Huey hijacks the mic, and plays another African-American rock song ("Everybody Wants to be Black on Saturday Night").
Mr. Simmons is about to have Huey thrown out, but then dozens of teenagers start calling in demanding more of Huey and his music. Mr. Simmons agrees to give him a two-week trial, and if he's successful he'll get hired full-time. After a few days Huey is told to read an advertisement for beer, but he is illiterate. Huey asks Bobby, a friend of Delray's with a janitor position, to tell him what it says. He forgets the exact words almost immediately and begins to improvise, ending with the phrase "Hockadoo!".
Mr. Simmons again almost fires Huey, until the manager of the store advertised calls in saying that he wants Huey to do all of his advertisements, seeing as his stock sold out in minutes. Huey's station gains immediate popularity, as does his new catch phrase, even though no one understands what it means...including Huey.
While on the radio, Huey encourages white people to go down to black churches ("Make Me Stronger"), and they begin to. Meanwhile, Delray has saved enough money to put Felicia's voice on the record, and she travels to Huey's house to tell him this. He is overjoyed and promises to play it the next day. Huey's prejudiced mother, however, breaks the record, which leaves Felicia heartbroken, but Huey tells her to come down to the radio station anyway ("Colored Women").
The next day, Huey brings in a band and back-up singers to play for Felicia live. Despite her reservations, Felicia sings and becomes an instant sensation ("Someday"). Felicia and Huey's relationship begins to grow, and Delray is becoming more and more infuriated with Huey. He warns him of the danger of what he is doing, threatening to harm Huey if anything happens to Felicia ("She's My Sister"). Huey's radio popularity grows more and more as white teens and black teens begin to accept each other ("Radio"). Huey and Felicia have been carrying on a secret relationship since the day she sang live on the radio.
Two years later Huey proposes to Felicia on the way to a party at Delray's. She says no because of laws and prejudice, but admits that without those obstacles she would accept. As the two share a kiss, a gang of white men pass by, spotting this. They hold Huey down as they beat Felicia with a bat. Huey manages to carry her into the club, crying out for help. Delray tries to go after Huey, for he promised to harm Huey should Felicia get hurt because of him, but Gator, a friend who has not spoken since he saw his father lynched as a child, calms him and sends out a prayer for change as Delray takes Felicia outside and gets her into the ambulance they called ("Say a Prayer").
Time has passed, and Huey is about to open his new TV show, a rock and roll variety show featuring all black dancers ("Crazy Little Huey"). Felicia is supposed to be his first guest, but she backs out at the last minute, fearing that people will think her and Huey to be in a relationship. Huey informs Bobby that he will fill in, and after getting over some jitters, Bobby brings the house down ("Big Love"). Felicia's popularity is also beginning to grow around Memphis, as does her relationship with Huey.
Felicia tells Huey that if they went to New York they wouldn't have to sneak around all the time, but Huey insists that they are happy the way they are and don't need to leave ("Love Will Stand When All Else Falls"). She has been discovered by a talent agency in New York, as has Huey's TV show. The agency wants them both to come up to New York, although Huey has to compete with Dick Clark for the national show. They ponder the decision ("Stand Up"), and are even supported by Huey's mother, who has changed her racist ways after seeing a black church choir ("Change Don't Come Easy").
Huey is told he has won the TV position, if he agrees not to use black dancers. Huey refuses, and proceeds to strip out of his suit on the air ("Tear Down the House"). Felicia tells Huey that she plans to go anyway, as it is her dream. In a desperate attempt to keep her, he kisses her on the air, and says he loves her ("Love Will Stand/Ain't Nothin' But a Kiss" (Reprise)). The feed is cut, and Huey is fired on the grounds that no one would watch his show if they knew about him and Felicia, and that he wasn't the only white person to play black music anymore. Felicia is taken away by Delray in an attempt to save her career.
Now unemployed, Huey leaves the station and ponders his relationship with Memphis, realizing he couldn't leave for any reason ("Memphis Lives in Me"). Four years later, Huey is a DJ on an obviously low budget and low rated station (he jokes that they have "exactly one listener"). Felicia walks in, about to start a national tour. She tells Huey that she is engaged to a man named Bill, but that she wants him to join her on stage one last time. He refuses, afraid that no one will remember him. She begins her performance, and halfway through the song Huey walks on stage, and finishes the song with her to thunderous applause. He then proclaims "The name is Huey Calhoun. Goodnight and HOCKADOO!" ("Steal Your Rock and Roll").
The concept for Memphis was developed by theater producer George W. George. Following productions at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Massachusetts and TheatreWorks in Mountain View, California during their 2003-2004 season, the musical was staged by the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego from August 19 through September 28, 2008 and the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle from January 27 through February 15, 2009.
Directed by Christopher Ashley and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, the Broadway production began previews at the Shubert Theatre on September 23, 2009 and officially opened on October 19. The cast included many of the cast members from the pre-Broadway productions, including Chad Kimball as Huey Calhoun and Montego Glover as Felicia Farrell. The creative team included costume designer Paul Tazewell, scenic designer David Gallo, and lighting designer Howell Binkley. The Broadway production won Best Musical in the Live Theatre division of the Golden Icon Awards, as well as the 2010 Tony Award for Best Musical.
The show closed on August 5, 2012 after 30 previews and 1,165 regular performances.
Theatrical release (2011)
The Broadway production was filmed during regularly scheduled performances January 18–21, 2011 by Broadway Worldwide for high definition exhibition in digital cinemas during spring 2011. The show was captured utilizing multiple high definition cameras and 96 tracks of sound recording. Director Don Roy King and sound producer Matt Kaplowitz led the production team for Broadway Worldwide. The filmed production was screened nationwide from April 28 through May 3, 2011.
First National US tour (2011-2013)
A national tour began at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee in October 2011. Bryan Fenkart starred as Huey Calhoun, and Felicia Boswell as Felicia Farrell. Other cast members include Quentin Earl Darrington, Rhett George, Will Mann, Julie Johnson, and William Parry.
First Regional Production (2013)
The first amateur production in the United States was performed at the University of Illinois in January of 2013, at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival. Although the amateur rights are not yet available to Memphis, the production was made possible by a special arrangement with the producers and creators of the show. Chad Kimball, who played Huey in the original Broadway production, made an appearance at the festival's opening ceremony. The production was directed by J.R. Rose (Homewood Flossmoor HS), Vocal Directed by Andrew M. Wallace (Glenbrook North HS), Choreographed by Rebecca Dedecker (Homewood-Flossmoor HS), Conducted by Aaron Kaplan (University of Illinois), and Produced by Suzanne Aldridge (Centennial HS).
The first amateur production outside the United States was performed by the Broadway Performance Club at the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG) in April 2013. The students received the official license for staging the musical from Theatrical Rights Worldwide and produced astonishing performances in 6 cities across Bulgaria. The cast and organizers of the show included both Bulgarian and international students from AUBG. Main characters were played by Lora Zlateva (Felicia), Kristiyan Dimitrov (Bobby), Ivaylo Shipochki (Gator), and Aida Kentasova (Mama/Gladys). Georgi Topalov, a student from the National Academy of Music "Prof. Pancho Vladigerov", played Huey and Atanas Filipov, a student from the South-West University "Neofit Rilski", played Delray. Vocal Directors were Gergana Petkova and Violeta Petkova, and choreographers were Angelina Markova, Nagima Iskakova, and Batyr Orazov. The show was produced by Svetlin Kozhuharov and directed by Alexandra Egumenova. The same tandem made the musical "Grease" become reality a year ago at AUBG.
Cast and characters
The original casts of notable productions of Memphis
|Character||Original Broadway Cast||National Tour Cast||Final Broadway Cast|
|Huey Calhoun||Chad Kimball||Bryan Fenkart||Adam Pascal|
|Felicia Farrell||Montego Glover||Felicia Boswell||Montego Glover|
|Delray||J. Bernard Calloway||Quentin Earl Darrington||J. Bernard Calloway|
|Gator||Derrick Baskin||Rhett George||Derrick Baskin|
|Bobby||James Monroe Iglehart||Will Mann||James Monroe Iglehart|
|Mama/Gladys||Cass Morgan||Julie Johnson||Nancy Opel|
|Mr. Simmons||Michael McGrath||William Parry||John Jellison|
- Broadway Cast Replacement History
- Allen Fitzpatrick temporarily replaced Michael McGrath as Mr. Simmons in July 2010.
- Nancy Opel replaced Cass Morgan as Mama on March 15, 2011.
- Will Mann temporarily replaced James Monroe Iglehart as Bobby in June and July 2011.
- Adam Pascal replaced Chad Kimball as Huey Calhoun on October 25, 2011.
- Christopher Jackson temporarily replaced J. Bernard Calloway as Delray from January 22, 2012 to February 26, 2012.
- J. Bernard Calloway returned to the role of Delray on February 28.
Memphis opened to mainly positive reviews. The New York Post's Elisabeth Vincantelli stated, "An exuberant musical with classic values: catchy songs, heaping spoonfuls of inspirational moments, and gifted performers at the top of their game." Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press also praised the show, stating "The exhilarating new musical shaking the Shubert Theatre is the very essence of what a Broadway musical should be." Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News gave the show three and a half out of five stars and said, "It's nice to know a new musical can actually surprise you! Though it starts on a familiar note and sparks deja vu at other points, Memphis eventually finds it own voice and beat, and wins you over with its sheer enthusiasm and exuberant performances." John Simon of the Bloomberg News praised the show as well: "I guarantee you a rambunctious good time, highlighted by rousing music and singing, spectacular dancing, and a witty, moving story."
Despite these positive reviews, Memphis had its share of negative reviews. Although both Glover and Kimball received almost unanimous praise for their portrayals of Felicia and Huey, the show was criticized for its storyline. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times gave the show a lukewarm review, stating "This slick but formulaic entertainment, written by David Bryan and Joe DiPietro, barely generates enough heat to warp a vinyl record, despite the vigorous efforts of a hard charging cast." However he praised the performance of both leading performers. "Miss Glover, beautiful and poised, brings a spark of toughness to her role as Felicia. She acts with a focused clarity and sings with intensity."
Awards and nominations
Original Broadway production
|2010||Tony Award||Best Musical||Won|||
|Best Book of a Musical||Joe DiPietro||Won|
|Best Original Score||David Bryan and Joe DiPietro||Won|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Chad Kimball||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Montego Glover||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Christopher Ashley||Nominated|
|Best Orchestrations||Daryl Waters and David Bryan||Won|
|Best Costume Design||Paul Tazewell||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Musical||Won|||
|Outstanding Book of a Musical||Joe DiPietro||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Chad Kimball||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actress in a Musical||Montego Glover||Won|
|Outstanding Choreography||Sergio Trujillo||Nominated|
|Outstanding Music||David Bryan||Won|
|Outstanding Orchestrations||Daryl Waters and David Bryan||Won|
- Devereaux, Teelly (March 10, 2009). "'Memphis' Headed to Broadway Theaters". WHBQ. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- Connema, Richard.Regional review talkinbroadway.com, January 31, 2004
- BWW News Desk.Memphis OPens at LaJolla broadwayworld.com, March 5, 2008
- Jones, Kenneth."Memphis, Musical of Racism and '50s Rock Radio, Gets La Jolla Playhouse Dates; Ashley Directs," playbill.com, March 5, 2008
- Berson, Misha."Theater review | "Memphis" musical is promising, but story line needs work," seattletimes.nwsource.com, February 6, 2009
- Hetrick, Adam."Rock Tuner Memphis Will Arrive at Broadway's Shubert Sept. 23," playbill.com, June 22, 2009
- Hetrick, Adam.Kimball and Glover to Make Music in Memphis on Broadway," playbill.com, July 29, 2009
- Hetrick, Adam."DiPietro and Bryan Musical Memphis Arrives on Broadway Sept. 23" playbill.com, September 23, 2009
-  Broadway World, January 22, 2010
-  Breaking News: Tony-Winning MEMPHIS to Close on Broadway August 5; West End Production Coming Soon
- "MEMPHIS to be Filmed Live for Nationwide Digital Cinema Distribution" LiveBway.com, January 12, 2011
- "MEMPHIS filming opens in theaters April 28th; Showtimes announced" LiveBway.com, March 10, 2011
- Hetrick, Adam." 'Memphis" Tour, Starring Bryan Fenkart and Felicia Boswell, Launches Oct. 14 in Namesake City".Playbill, October 14, 2011
- "Memphis - A New Musical: Cast".
- "Aladdin Musical".
- Hetrick, Adam. " 'Rent' Star Adam Pascal Will Step Into Broadway's 'Memphis' ". Playbill, September 6, 2011
-  broadway.com
- Vincentelli, Elisabeth."Memphis hits right notes"New York Post, October 20, 2009
- Dziemianowicz, Joe."New musical 'Memphis,' with music from Bon Jovi keyboardist, has a strong voice of its own"New York Daily News, October 20, 2009
- Simon, John."Bon Jovi’s Bryan Pens Blues for Rousing ‘Memphis’"Bloomberg News, October 20, 2009
- Isherwood, Charles."A D.J. Who Shook, Rattled and Rolled", The New York Times, October 20, 2009
- "Who's Nominated? - All Categories" tonyawards.com, May 4, 2010
- L.S. Public Relations."Drama Desk Nominations for 2009/2010 Season" dramadesk.com, May 3, 2010
- Official website
- Memphis at LiveBway.com - Filmed Broadway Shows Database
- Memphis (musical) at the Internet Broadway Database
- TheLoop21.com's interview with Montego Glover