“Memphis: The Musical” is filled with music, dancing and lessons on race relations. And it’s about the most fun you’re likely to have in Salt Lake City this week.
The show, which continues at the Capitol Theatre through Sunday, won the Tony as best musical in 2010, but it does not, perhaps, get the respect it deserves. It’s certainly lesser-known than, say, “Wicked,” which returns to the Capitol Theatre in July.
Which is too bad. “Memphis” is filled with some great music, some entertaining production and a message that will surprise some audience members.
There was an audible gasp among the theatergoers at Tuesday’s performance when one of the characters used the n-word.
“Memphis” (music and lyrics by David Bryan; lyrics and book by Joe DiPietro) is loosely based on the real-life story of disc jockey Dewey Phillips, who was among the first white DJs to play black music on the air in 1950s Tennessee.
As the show begins, Huey Calhoun (Joey Elrose) causes a stir by walking into an all-black nightclub owned by Delray (RaMond Thomas). He isn’t exactly welcomed with open arms, but he’s there because he loves the music.
He also quickly falls for Delray’s talented, singing sister, Felicia (Jasmin Richardson). And interracial romance is frowned upon — and worse — in 1950s Memphis.
Huey is sort of a lovable idiot — charming and excited about the music — and Elrose has a great voice and a winning way. Thomas and Richardson both have big voices, and there are show-stopping numbers and laughs along the way.
“Memphis” is not all sweetness and light, however. The underlying story about race relations is tough (and a bit heavy-handed at times), and there are racial slurs and a couple of f-bombs.
It’s meant to be shocking, and it is. The contrast is a bit awkward at times, but the energy of “Memphis” carries you through and carries it off.
‘Memphis: The Musical’
P The nationally touring show of “Memphis,” which won four Tony Awards in 2010, including Best Musical and Best Original Score (by David Bryan, the keyboardist for Bon Jovi, and Joe DiPietro), plays in Salt Lake City. Set in segregated Memphis in 1952, the musical tells the story of a white DJ who introduces black music to stations in the middle of the radio dial.
When » Reviewed Tuesday; continues tonight and Saturday at 8; Sunday, 6:30 p.m.; matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
Where » Capitol Theater, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets » $37.50-$60 (plus fees ranging from $3-$8.50) ; 801-355-2787; arttix.org