Saturday, October 24, 2009


photo: Joan Marcus

A perfect litmus test for those who value sensation and production over substance in a Broadway musical, Memphis is an often thrillingly staged, excitingly choreographed gloss job on thin material. The 1950's-set story - of the interracial romance between a porkpie hat-wearing disc jockey (Chad Kimball) and a Beale Street blues singer (Montego Glover) - is strictly by-the-numbers on the page: it traffics in music theatre cliches so well-worn you've already seen them spoofed on The Simpsons. There's nothing surprising about the book, except for a surprisingly misjudged key moment in the second act that brings all belief in the story to a halt. All that said, the big production numbers in Memphis are dazzling thanks to choreography (by Sergio Trujillo) that has all the flavor, personality and inspiration that the show otherwise lacks.

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