Earlier this week, I was kindly offered tickets to go and watch a musical in the West End. I’d never seen a musical before, which frankly is a bit of a crime when living in London. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Then again, I like plays and I like music so surely you can’t go wrong combining the two?
The play was Memphis The Musical and is set in 1950s America, a time where segregation was still considered law as well as social norm. As a history student, I’ve always been interested in this era of American history because of the sheer radical, meaningful nature of the changes which took place.
The story tells the rise to fame of African American club singer Felicia Farrell, and her struggle to overcome racism and prejudice in order to fulfill her dream. It reminds us the impact great black music has had in gradually changing opinions and race relations, paving the way for the civil rights movement of the 60s and the African American record artists which followed in the likes of Motown. Farrell is played by Beverly Knight, who’s just brilliant.
On her journey she’s supported by her eccentric lover, radio DJ Huey Caldhoun. A white guy who’s crazy about black music (and just crazy in general), he’s set himself the mission to promote black music to a mainstream public often unable to access it.
Caldhoun’s a little dumb but his heart is clearly in the right place. He’s played by Killian Donnelly, who’s not only a great singer, but also very good in the acting scenes. Quite funny at times, too.
Me and my friend had a great time! I like soul music so this was probably a good musical for me to start with. It wasn’t cheesy, either. Unlike many plays I’ve seen where a few big names grab the headlines, I thought all members of the cast were great performers, from the two central characters up to the seemingly unimportant window cleaner who turns out to be an absolute star. I was also impressed by how convincingly well the English cast took up the southern American accent. Can’t be easy.
All in all it was fun, it was cheerful and occasionally unexpectedly emotional. In any case, I’m now converted to musicals and will most certainly go again. Needless to say, I’d definitely recommend Memphis if you’re in town!
Memphis The Musical is on at the Shaftesbury Theatre every night until 17th October 2015. Nearest Tube stations Tottenham Court Road & Holborn.