The favorite, and nonsensical, exclamation of the lead character in Memphis, a white rock ‘n’ roll disc jockey in 1950s Memphis named Huey Calhoun, is ”Hockadoo!” Which would be a terrific boon for any critic who really loved or hated the show: ”Hocka-don’t go and see this new Broadway show from the authors of The Toxic Avenger Musical.” ”If you only go and see one song-suffused extravaganza about race relations in ’50s Tennessee, then Hocka-do make sure it’s this one.” And so on.
Memphis is too much of a mixed bag to be so definitive. On the one hand, the stage design is inventive and fairly lavish, the gospel numbers penned by Joe DiPietro and Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan are more than acceptable, and Montego Glover shines as an African American club singer named Felicia Farrell whose socially taboo relationship with Calhoun powers the plot. On the other hand, much of that plot is simply ridiculous, the rock ‘n’ roll numbers are ploddingly inauthentic, and Calhoun’s naivete about the problems likely to be caused by his love for Farrell leads one to believe that he has beamed in from some more racially tolerant time and place (possibly the set of Heathers, given the Christian Slater-ish vibe of Chad Kimball’s performance).
In short, here’s what we can say: Hocka-maybe check it out if you can’t get tickets to anything better! C+
(Tickets: Telecharge.com or 800.432.7250)