Beverley Knight and Killian Donnelly

Hot from Broadway, ‘Memphis The Musical’ has rolled into town and is set to bring rock ‘n’ roll to the masses with high octane performances and catchy tunes.  Simply put – it’s going to take you by the soul, knock you off your feet!

Dubbed ‘West Side Story meets Hairspray’, this new musical is about the underground music clubs of the 1950’s. Queen of British Soul, Beverley Knight plays Felicia, a club singer on the cusp of fame; with West End star, Killian Donnelly playing Huey, the DJ who discovers her.  In the face of intense bigotry Huey soon falls in love with Felicia and makes it his mission to take her voice onto the airwaves of America.

The musical is loosely based on the story of disc jockey, Dewey Philips, who was one of the first white DJs to play black music in the 1950’s.  In an age of racial segregation, Dewey dared to play rhythm and blues to mainstream audiences.  He broke all the rules and featured music on the basis of what he liked and what he thought the kids wanted to hear, regardless of the artist’s colour.  The result? The birth of rock ‘n’ roll, which itself grew out of the sounds of the African-American rhythm and blues.

The songs and lyrics are written by David Bryan and Joe Dipietro.  David has been a founding member and keyboard player in the rock band ’Bon Jovi’ for the 30 years.  With a whopping 150 million records sold, this man definitely knows how to write a hit song.

Memphis, 2014, Credit: Johan Persson/
Killian Donnelly and Beverley Knight

For me the beauty of the show is that the songs feel like you have known them for years. The music is infectious and I found myself singing along even though I was hearing it for the first time.  These great musical numbers  will keep audiences coming back time and time again but don’t just take my word for it, ‘Memphis the Musical’ is a winner of no less than 4 Tony Awards including Best Musical – no mean feat given the competitive world of musical theatre.

Beverley Knight

Beverley Knight’s vocals are stunning.  She blends beautifully from the upbeat catchy numbers like ‘Someday’ to the rousing  ‘Coloured Woman’, which will give you with goose bumps.  It looks like Knight will steal the show until the unlikely hero, Huey, takes to the centre stage for the penultimate number ‘Memphis Lives in Me’ –  Killian Donnelly’s voice soars across the auditorium with emotion.

Worthy of note is the supporting cast in particular Claire Machin who plays Gladys, Huey’s Mum and Rolan Benn, as Delray, Felicia’s brother.  The energy of the cast is unrivalled when they perform as an ensemble which is when ‘Memphis’ really comes alive.

Everyone danced and sang as if their life depended on it.  You can’t help but be won over with their sheer enthusiasm and had the audience at fever pitch by the  time curtain fell.

If you are looking for a soul affirming, rousing night out then ‘Memphis The Musical’ is your show.

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