Friday, 10 July 2015

Memphis the Musical


I love a musical with a good story. And surprisingly, they seem to be extremely lacking in the West End at the moment. Creators clearly favour songs and choreography over the plot. But this was definitely not the case with Memphis.

If it had been a school child, Memphis would have been labelled an 'all-rounder'. Because, coupled with the entertaining plot there was great dancing, a range of original songs (some ballads, some story based, some standing still and connecting with the audience, some while dancing their socks off); some emotional sections and some hugely funny bits. And it tackled some very real racial issues that are a huge part of our history.

On top of this, it was beautifully staged. Obviously a lot of thought goes into the staging of every single production out there, but this was never something I really noticed until tonight. There was this particular bit where the main character Huey (played by Matt Cardle) was singing about how he had decided to stay in Memphis rather than go to New York. And as he was saying so, he had his back to the audience, as if rejecting the world outside of Memphis. And when he eventually did turn around, every time he took a step towards us, the ensemble took a step towards him, which almost seemed to crowd him and definitely stopped him leaving. It was very cleverly done.

The leads were pretty fantastic.Beverley Knight was unfortunately not performing, but the alternate Felicia, Rachel John was great. She received a very well deserved standing ovation that she was clearly overwhelmed by. Her diction needs a little bit of work, but I enjoyed her take on the character. To be honest, just her stamina in general impressed me - the show is extremely full on and is a very hard sing compared to many others but she didn't let any flaws show.

I was really interested to see how Matt Cardle would do in his West End debut as the male lead. Yes this is the same Matt Cardle who won X Factor a few years ago. There seems to be an influx of X Factor people hitting the stage recently what with Lloyd Daniels touring as Joseph last year, and Marcus Collins appearing as Seaweed in Hairspray a few years ago. Whenever this happens there is always a worry within Theatre-Blogger-Land that they are going to turn it a little bit 'poppy.' But I was so pleased that, except in one song, this wasn't the case with Matt at all. Despite having so little experience in the theatre, he seemed to be very comfortable and his acting was wonderfully natural.  He managed to hold on to his American accent throughout and I did not notice it slip up, a feat hard in itself considering the waffling and fast monologues he had to perform at certain points. I loved the goofiness with which he played Huey. It was suitably human and allowed you to root for him all the way through. After seeing Killian Donnelly in the lead a few months ago, I wasn't expecting to like Matt Cardle so much, but he definitely won me over.

Thank you for inviting me to see your wonderful show, Memphis. I loved it and I would urge you all to visit them before Cardle and Knight leave in October.

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