Memphis the Musical

by Jillian Torre

On Saturday, March 3rd a bus full of Mount Saint Mary College students traveled down to New York City to see the Tony Award Winning Musical “Memphis.”

Set in the 1950s, “Memphis” is the story of the first white DJ to play African American music on the Memphis, Tennessee radio airwaves. This upbeat  moving musical begins when Huey Calhoun, a white high school drop-out, steps beyond society’s borders and into an African American underground night club. Felicia Farrell, played by Montego Glover, quickly catches the attention of Huey as well as the audience with her vibrant and flawless voice. Huey promises to get her voice on the radio, despite the fact that he works for a department store and not a radio station.

After being fired from his job at the department store for playing “race music” for customers, Huey doesn’t skip a beat before he goes to every radio station in Memphis looking for a job. He ends up landing himself a two-week trial run at a small radio station where the station manager is wary of this new type of music. The youth of Memphis go wild after hearing Huey and his revolutionary sounds, and his show quickly jumps to the number one radio show in Memphis.

Adam Pascal, of the musicals “Rent” and “Aida,” portrays Huey’s quirky and energetic personality perfectly. Pascal constantly has the audience cracking up and bobbing their heads along to the musical’s catchy songs.
Life is looking good for Huey and Felicia; he’s the most popular man in Memphis and her music career is rocketing. However, things start to get shaky when Huey’s mother and Felicia’s older and overprotective brother are against their decision to be a couple despite society’s social norms. Felicia and Huey not only struggle with the tough entertainment industry, but they also have to put up a tough fight against racism and society’s reluctance to change.

Although the show’s writers, David Bryan and Joe DiPietro, did not base the musical off of a true story, they were inspired by real life radio DJ Dewey Philips, who was the first to spin an Elvis Presley record.

“Memphis” was nominated for seven Tony Awards in 2010 and won four, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score. The show just celebrated its 1,000th performance on March 14th, and this October will mark its third anniversary on Broadway.