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A soulful tale of musical discovery and
breaking down racial discord

Cadillac Palace Theatre
Chicago, IL
November 22, 2011
Memphis Memphis

Story by Andy Argyrakis
Publicity Photos

If Stax Records and Sun Records merged and built a show that met somewhere in the musical middle of "Million Dollar Quartet" and "Dreamgirls," it would probably sound something like "Memphis." Of course, given an interracial love angle, there's bits of "West Side Story," but at the end of nearly two-and-a-half hours, the four time 2010 Tony Award winner is truly in a class of its own.

Set in the 1950s in the same city as the show's namesake, the storyline follows rebel radio DJ Huey (played by the lanky but likeable Bryan Fenkart) who discovers soul singer Felicia (adapted by divine diva Felicia Boswell) in a smoky club on Beale Street. Though it doesn't sound all that revolutionary of a story, the fact that it takes place at the height of segregation makes their friendship tense enough, let alone downright dangerous when a love interest eventually develops.

While this is certainly a story of racial unrest accompanied by a multi-cultural cast that seeks to preach tolerance to that generation, there's also plenty of music that mirrors the likes of Carl Perkins or Jerry Lee Lewis (when Huey's singing) to The Staple Singers or Booker T. & the MGs (courtesy of Felicia and company). Though the material is too new to be all that familiar for first time audiences and it doesn't pack the same instantly infectious punch as any of the aforementioned shows, at least this touring cast is extremely endearing and charismatic in their delivery.

And just when the show seems like it's about to get predictable, an unexpected twist takes place in the second half that finds the pair's romantic chemistry (and possible safety) being shaken to the core. The results lead to a bittersweet finale that's heavy on the soul- both musical and emotional.

"Memphis" continues at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago through Sunday, December 4. For additional details, visit or

Memphis Memphis


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