Music of my soul is rock ’n roll

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Liam Quealy (L) as Huey Calhoun and Aeriel Williams as Felicia Farrell in 'Memphis at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Michael Courier photos)
Liam Quealy (L) as Huey Calhoun and Aeriel Williams as Felicia Farrell in ‘Memphis at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Michael Courier photos)

There’s a long list of reasons to see the wonderful musical, ‘Memphis,’ a story of rock ‘n roll in the 1950s at Porchlight Music Theatre.

The dancing is incredible. The singing is fantastic. The acting is superb. But wait . . . there’s so much more.

A Tony Award-winning Best Musical with lyrics and music by David Bryan and lyrics and book by Joe DiPietro, the story takes place in underground nightclubs in Memphis, TN.

The audience is swinging and swaying when the music begins playing but as the story continues many important issues are revealed.

Huey Calhoun, played by Liam Quealy, is loosely based on DJ Dewey Philips, a new white voice on Memphis radio in the 1950s.

(L to R) Gilbert Domally (Gator), James Earl Jones II (Bobby), Nancy Wagner (Gladys Calhoun) and Lorenzo Rush (Delray Jones) in Memphis at Porchlight Music Theatre.
(L to R) Gilbert Domally (Gator), James Earl Jones II (Bobby), Nancy Wagner (Gladys Calhoun) and Lorenzo Rush (Delray Jones) in Memphis at Porchlight Music Theatre.

Although Huey is the opposite of many articulate radio announcers, his enthusiasm—along with the rock ’n roll music he plays amidst his comical remarks—draws thousands of listeners and leads to his success. But that’s just the beginning.

Huey becomes the center of the radio’s dial. The music he plays encourages free expression from diverse people in segregated neighborhoods that are near each other. He wants to change the world through his musical choices.

Felicia Farrell, played by Aeriel Williams, is a wonderful night-club black singer who wants to achieve fame. Of course, Huey and Felicia meet and fall in love albeit they feel that their relationship will be forbidden by both families, especially if they remain in Memphis.

Other main characters include Lorenzo Rush, Jr. as Delray, Felicia’s brother; Nancy Wagner as Gladys Calhoun, Huey’s mother; Gilbert Domally as Gator; and James Earl Jones II as Bobby.

The rest of the very talented cast and ensemble numbers twenty-six additional actors, singer, and dancers who make this musical an unforgettable experience.

With fine direction by Daryl Brooks, musical direction by Jermaine Hill and choreography by Christopher Carter, ‘Memphis’ is filled with laughter, soaring emotion and a musical score that has audiences tapping their feet. There are also several songs that bring tears to our eyes.

Brooks calls ‘Memphis’ a “reminder that who we are and who we decide to love is constantly and forever under attack.”

Today, sixty-plus years later, many of its issues are still relevant. The play  speaks to the fact that our battle for justice and equality continues and can serve as our activism.

DETAILS: ‘Memphis’ is at Porchlight Music Theatre in The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, through June 16, 2018. Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes. For tickets and other information, call (773) 852-0506 or visit PorchlightMusicTheatre.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

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