NY Theatre Guide Review: ‘Memphis’ at John W. Engeman Theater

NY Theatre Guide
March 28, 2016
Kristen Weyer

If you’re looking for an entertaining evening of theater, then look no further than Northport. The John W. Engeman Theater’s current production of Memphis is full of great acting, fantastic singing and fun music. With a book by Joe DiPietro, and score by David Bryan, Memphis originally opened on Broadway in 2009 and received four Tony Awards. Directed here by Igor Goldin with choreography by Antoinette DiPietropolo, Memphis is a rock-and-roll good time for all.

The action takes place, obviously enough, in Memphis, Tennessee during the early 1950s. It is a time fraught with racial tension and segregation. Young Huey Calhoun (Carson Higgins), however, seems not to notice or care. He’s a white boy who loves good music, and if the good music happens to be found on the “dark” side of town, well then, that’s where he’s going to go. When he meets the beautiful and talented, black singer Felicia (Breanna Bartley), he vows to get her on the radio where all of Memphis will hear her. Even with his crazy ways, his charm and determination help him to turn Memphis upside down.

This cast is simply wonderful. Filled with talent, each voice seems to be better than the next. Carson Higgins plays the awkwardly adorable Huey to perfection. His gangly stride, goofy grin, and impeccable comedic timing make his every scene a pleasure to watch. Felicia is portrayed by vocal powerhouse Breanna Bartley. Her stunning performances bring not only her character, but the story to life. Felicia’s brother Del Rey is played by C. Mingo Long, whose incredible voice resonates throughout the theater whenever he sings. Jarred Bedgood does wonderfully in the touching role of Gator, while Arthur L. Ross is superb as the amusing Bobby. The beleaguered Mr. Simmons, and stressed-out Gladys are delightfully played by David McDonald and Kathryn Markey respectively.

DT Willis’ set design works brilliantly for this production. The clever two story set contains sliding panes which allow the audience to “see” who is on the air above the radio station below. Intelligent sound design by Laura Shubert brings the rock-and-roll volume without losing the lyrics. The band, under direction from James Olmstead, marvelously performed the high energy score. All of this, combined with the fun costuming of Tristan Raines, assisted in bringing this production to its successful completion. With its rockin’ music, touching story and clever one liners, Memphis is a fun time that is sure to appeal.

Running Time: Approximately 2 ½ hours including one 15 minute intermission.

Memphis is running at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport until May 8, 2016. The theater is located at 250 Main Street, Northport. For tickets call the box office at (631) 261-2900 or click here.

Read online at: nytheatreguide.com/2016/03/theatre-review-memphis-at-john-w-engeman-theater/

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