Catch It Before It Goes: MEMPHIS at the Shaftesbury Theatre (Final Weeks!)

It's really rare that it takes me this long to get around to seeing a show: Memphis celebrated one year on the West End a fortnight ago and it was only last night that I finally got around to seeing it. I've had the cast recording playing for a good few years now and the London cast recording replaced that earlier this year when it was released, so it's pretty safe to say I was ready to finally put bum to seat this time around - but was the show really all I thought it was cracked up to be?

Needless to say, the music is absolutely incredible. Composed by Tony Award-winner David Bryan of Bon Jovi, the score is a fantastic representation of Memphis Blues and Rock'n'Roll music of the 1950s - so much so that when I first heard the music a while back, I thought it was all cover music. Not only is the source material amazing but Beverley Knight and X Factor-alum Matt Cardle who lead this stellar cast sing the score beautifully. Beverley Knight is honestly one of the best vocalists I have ever had the pleasure of seeing live before; a true reminder of why celebrity casting in shows sometimes can be absolutely spot on. That's not to say that only the leading cast were outstanding because the supporting cast and ensemble brought up the rest of the atmosphere with perfection as well. If there was an Olivier for Best Ensemble, this show would've had it last year.

As for the book of the show (written by Joe DiPietro), I found it weak, dry and generally a little bit pointless. There was so much they could do with the story of the relationship between Felicia and Huey as well as the story surrounding the racial segregation in Memphis at that point in history but instead, we were spending our time focusing on Matt Cardle running around the stage in the hopes of people laughing at the characters idiocy and then being quickly cut off by a very pointless and unnecessary song that had no relevance to the story whatsoever. It's a format I don't mind seeing in a show once or twice for the sake of shaking things up a bit, but perhaps it happened one too many times in this show for me.

Coming back to what impressed me though, the visual appeal of this show is what makes me tell myself that I did enjoy more that I initially feel like I did. Everything from the marketing for the show to the stage design to the choreography kept me in awe of the kind of musical theatre that is out there: there is a genre of musical theatre where we can have jukebox musicals with original music and I like that this show opens a door for that market. The sleek set design works well with that as well and I haven't seen a show with an impressive and sleek set like this one since I saw the way they use trap doors in Fun Home earlier this year. It's incredibly impressive how they manage to use set that changes so quickly to signify changes in the story and the uber satisfying choreography emphasises that, too.

All in all, Memphis isn't something I'd say you should pass up on seeing because I didn't enjoy it enough, but I equally wouldn't go telling everyone about how its the best show that opened on the West End last season. It's fun, energetic and a great tuner, but this show really isn't very much in my eyes without some very talented star power at the helm.

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