Toronto Centre for the Arts, a very recent musical is playing. It's also Tony award-winning, but don't let that put you off. Written by the solid librettist Joe DiPietro, along with David Byran, the gifted composer and long-time keyboardist of rock group Bon Jovi, Memphis is a fine show that I wish could have stayed for months in Toronto, but it's running until only Dec. 24.

">

Theatre Review: Memphis, at Toronto Centre for the Arts

Up at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, a very recent musical — and Tony-Award-winning, but don't let that put you off — written by the solid libreticist J


Published:

Up at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, a very recent musical is playing. It's also Tony award-winning, but don't let that put you off. Written by the solid librettist Joe DiPietro, along with David Byran, the gifted composer and long-time keyboardist of rock group Bon Jovi, Memphis is a fine show that I wish could have stayed for months in Toronto, but it's running until only Dec. 24.

The story is lightly based on a (white) disc jockey in the '50s in the southern United States who did a daring thing at the time: he started to play "race music." Of course, he also helped turn Elvis Presley into one of the most popular and beloved musical stars of the 20th century. (Presley's real claim to fame was that he almost single-handedly made African-American music acceptable to the American white majority.)

Bryan's music consists of pretty satisfactory imitations of mid-century rock 'n' roll. The white DJ Huey is played wonderfully by Bryan Fenkart, and Felicia, the black female singer who rides to the top and beyond (and is also the DJ's love interest), is played by the striking Felicia Boswell, whose voice is booming and ethereal.

I was personally moved to tears a dozen times, since I was involved in Mississippi's Freedom Summer of 1964 as a teacher, and experienced the glorious rhythm and blues of the local Baptist church — the likes of which gave birth to modern rock 'n' roll — every single Sunday.

Memphis is delightful entertainment. It's hardly a great musical — you may not be able to hum a single tune from the show — but it has a rollicking sense of freedom, and it's full of hope for America to grow into multi-racial greatness.

Memphis, Toronto Centre for the Arts. Runs until Dec. 24.

Allan Gould is Post City Magazines’ theatre critic. He has a Ph.D. in english and theatre from York University and has written over 40 books. His writing has appeared in Toronto Life, Chatelaine, en Route, Canadian Business, Good Times and Financial Post. He is married with two children. Aside from his family, his major passions are theatre and film, because they enrich life with pleasure and meaning.

Edit Module

Join the conversation and have your say by commenting below. Our comment system uses a Facebook plugin. Please note that you'll have to turn off some ad-blockers in order to see the comments.

Edit Module

Follow us on Twitter @PostCity for more on what to eat, where to shop and what to do in Toronto.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

You may also like...

University of Toronto researchers say your attitude toward sex is the key to happiness

University of Toronto researchers say your attitude toward sex is the key to happiness

Researchers at the University of Toronto believe they’ve uncovered the key to a lasting, happy relationship: it’s all about your attitude toward sex.
Posted 19 hours ago
Crow's Theatre kicks off new theatre in style with hilarious new comedy The Wedding Party

Crow's Theatre kicks off new theatre in style with hilarious new comedy The Wedding Party

Crow's Theatre could not have chosen a better way to launch its shiny, new space than with the world premiere of Kristen Thomson's wonderful, hilarious new play The Wedding Party.
Posted 24 hours ago
Republic of Rathnelly to celebrate 50 years

Republic of Rathnelly to celebrate 50 years

The Republic of Rathnelly (ROR), a Midtown neighbourhood and pseudo-independent state, has a colourful history dating back to 1967. Now, just in time for its 50th anniversary, residents have undertaken a laneway naming initiative to pay homage to local lore.
Posted 24 hours ago
Joey Bats’ return bat-flips the script on the Jays’ 2017 season

Joey Bats’ return bat-flips the script on the Jays’ 2017 season

Jose Bautista is once again a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, signing a one-year $18 million deal with options for 2018 and 2019.
Posted 2 days ago
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit Module