LAUREL BLACK | The Sun
Joey Elrose (left) appears as disc jockey Huey Calhoun, while RaMond Thomas plays night club owner Delray, in the Tony Award-winning musical "Memphis." The musical will hit the stage of the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center on Nov. 5 and 6.
Jasmin Richardson plays Felicia Farrell to Joey Elrose's Huey Calhoun in the touring production of "Memphis." Elrose said the musical, which follows the story of an interracial couple in 1950s Memphis, carries a message of tolerance that still resonates with today's viewers.
It’s the 1950s in Memphis and racial segregation extends even to the realm of music.
One disc jockey, Huey Calhoun, tries to tear down the barriers by introducing white listeners to what was once considered black music. In the process, he falls in love with a black singer, Felicia Farrell. But their taboo relationship puts them both in harm’s way.
The Tony Award-winning musical “Memphis” offers more than just an evening of entertainment, says actor Joey Elrose, who plays Calhoun in the show’s touring production. The show also offers a lesson in tolerance that resonates with today’s audiences.
“Unfortunately the message is still relevant,” Elrose said. “There are still people struggling for equality.”
Elrose, a New York City native, says that spreading the musical’s message is the most fulfilling part of touring with the show.
“That is the most rewarding part: knowing that we’re changing people’s lives,” he said.
The character of Calhoun is loosely based on real-life disc jockey Dewey Phillips, a pioneering radio personality of the time. Phillips never had a Felicia, Elrose said, but the love story does reflect the true racial challenges of the era.
“As much as our specific story is fictional, there’s tons of stories out there from the ’50s, a lot of them secret,” he said. “It is a part of history.”
Elrose added that, although the show addresses serious issues, it doesn’t skimp on the entertainment that every Broadway musical is expected to offer.
The original score, which earned the musical one of its four Tony Awards, was written by David Bryan, the keyboardist for Bon Jovi.
“(Audiences) are going to come in and get blown away by the music, the gritty soul and gospel music, the rock n roll mentality,” Elrose said. “And it’s a very, very funny show.”
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641 or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.