Memphis, at the heart a story of a quirky self-made DJ and a singer he 'discovered,' is a spirited show filled with dancing from curtain up to down. The cast was up to the task of performing Sergio Trujillo's original high-energy choreography, with its tricky footwork and ever changing architecture.
We've already experienced Trujillo's choreography with Broadway in Indianapolis favorite Jersey Boys. This season Trujillo's distinctive approach to choreography comes to us through Memphis, Flashdance: The Musical and the forthcoming The Addams Family.
Trujillo is a dancer's choreographer whose Broadway roles include Jerome Robbins' Broadway, Guys and Dolls and Fosse. His roots are in a combination of classical ballet, modern, contemporary jazz, hip-hop and the sexy jazz he describes as 'true flashdance style.' This eclectic experience allows him to choreograph each show with its own distinctive character.
One can't call Memphis a "feel good show" in line with Flashdance. With Memphis, we're more likely to take sides between the characters Huey Calhoun (Joey Elrose), for whom Memphis is fine enough, and Felicia (Jasmin Richardson), whose calling becomes a career in New York City.
From discovery to dispatch, the story hinges on racial issues, social class and personal choices. Huey, who never learned to read, has an uncanny sense of music that drives him to achieve and irritate people. Felicia, whose elegance is more than a cut above Huey's upbringing endears herself.
Vocally, Memphis has moments that will appeal to some and not others in the audience. The fine on-stage band, lighting design and highly serviceable set add to the overall experience.
Did it really happen this way in Memphis? Maybe. But there's a bittersweet irony to "Everybody Wants to Be Black on a Saturday Night."