I thought it was about time I checked out the competition…
I’m getting quite good at picking up a bargain, and this was no exception! Front row day seat for £20! I got to the box office at about 12.30pm for a Tuesday night performance, so that hopefully gives you a good idea of when to get there should you wish to do the same.
Now, I love a bit of rock ‘n’ roll, but that was no guarantee I’d enjoy the show. I mean, I like the songs of Carole King, but Beautiful is as dull as dishwater… (Don’t get me started on that again!) A musical cannot simply be about the music, it needs to have substance; the music should inform the dialogue, and vice versa. That’s why I love Sunny Afternoon so much – it means something.
It’s easy to get swept away with all the hype and the star power of a ‘big’ show; I went into Memphis with an open mind, prepared for either disappointment or excitement.
I think my reaction at the interval says it all:
From the opening number, Memphis is just sublime. I never expected to get so emotionally invested in another show!
In case you’re unaware of the premise of the show, the basic plot revolves around Huey & Felicia – a white DJ & a black singer – and the former’s attempts to get rock ‘n’ roll into the mainstream. The context is 1950s America, still segregated, parts of the country with laws against interracial marriage.
Killian Donnelly, as expected, is superb. What a voice – and fantastic comic ticks. It’s difficult to stop watching him, even when he’s in the background. To me, that’s the mark of a great actor, truly immersing themselves in a role. His Olivier Award nomination was totally deserved.
I’d heard mixed comments about Beverley Knight – obviously her singing talents are never in question. I saw her perform songs from the show at both the WhatsOnStage and Olivier Awards ceremonies, so I had every confidence in that aspect of her performance. It was the acting side that I was curious about. And, on the whole, I’d say she does a fantastic job. There are times where she perhaps over-exaggerates the Deep South accent to cover herself – but any slight deficiencies in her acting are more than covered by her astounding voice.
My favourite song was probably ‘Steal Your Rock ‘n’ Roll’, the closing number. A brilliant ensemble piece that truly encapsulates the spirit of the entire show – and was also one of the more memorable performances of the Oliviers ceremony.
I thoroughly recommend you get yourself to the Shaftesbury Theatre to catch this show – I certainly will be going back! Killian is leaving for Kinky Boots at the start of July, so get there before then if you can. The show itself is currently booking until 31 October, so you have plenty of time on that score!