Memphis – starring Matt Cardle
Matt Cardle, winner of X Factor 2010 was not an obvious choice to replace the current king of the West End Killian Donelly (who has left to join the original London cast of Kinky Boots) as Huey Calhoun in Memphis the Musical, alongside queen of soul Beverley Knight. Always happy to watch this show again, I went along to check out his performance and I am delighted to say, he nailed it completely. The singing, the acting, the American accent were all perfect. Replacing Killian was no easy task but Matt has done it. And to top it all off, he’s quite pretty too!
I finally got to see Rachel John play the role of Felicia (Beverley Knight does not perform on Monday evenings) and she gave a great performance. The only difference between her and Beverley is that I really get the feeling Beverley has lived this experience. You can see the anger and frustration in her face about the situation the world is in and it is not so evident with Rachel. Nonetheless, Memphis is a rollercoaster vocal ride and Rachel gives it her all.
Memphis tells the story of happy-go-lucky Huey, a young white man with a passion for black music in 1950’s Memphis, Tennessee. When he walks into a black club one day, the patrons quickly turn on him and force him out but when he declares he is going to make the owners sister Felicia a star and get her played on the radio, they become slightly more curious about the man in front of them. It is a serious story of racism, abuse and the way the world was only sixty years ago. It shows how far we have come as a nation but also how far we still have to come to make equality truly mean something.
Rolan Bell gave a great performance as Delray, the protective brother of Felicia and Simon Ray Harvey also stood out as very impressive.
It is a real shame that Memphis is set to close in the West End later this year. It is one of the best musicals we have had in the West End for quite a while and Matt Cardle is now giving it a new lease of life to a very appreciative audience.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Johan Persson
Memphis is booking at the Shaftesbury Theatre until 31 October 2015. Click here to book tickets