Hockadoo! 'Memphis' set to rock in Tucson

Singing, swaying story with a message on love, race relations, music in '50s
2013-02-21T00:00:00Z Hockadoo! 'Memphis' set to rock in TucsonKathleen Allen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Felicia Boswell has been on the road with the musical "Memphis" for 16 months.

So, really, you can't blame her for not having a ready answer to the question, "Where are you?"

"We are in ...," her voice drops off, and there are several seconds of silence.

"Oh gosh, where am I?"

More silence, then:

"Fayetteville, Arkansas!" she says, clearly relieved that it came to her.

Next week, Boswell and "Memphis" roll into another city - ours - for eight performances of the musical, which snagged four Tony Awards in 2010, including Best Musical.

And while she may be confused about the place, she is not about the play.

She loves it.

"I love the music, the message, the story," said Boswell.

"Memphis" is a rock 'n' roller about the early days of the music, when radio stations ignored music by black artists.

In the story, a white DJ by the name of Huey Calhoun has fallen in love with the soul-drenched tunes sung by black artists, and has begun to play them on his radio show.

In the process, he meets the singer Felicia, wants to promote her and, as it happens, falls in love with her.

Felicia is black. It's a relationship that is fraught with danger, especially in Memphis.

"It's a necessary story that needs to be told," said Boswell, who plays the character Felicia.

"It's a history lesson and shows how ugly it was. It's a reminder of how far we've come and how much further we have to go."

The Civil Rights Era was long before Boswell was born, but she knew about the struggles - Rosa Parks was her cousin.

"It's sad that people were judged, murdered, hated for the color of their skin," she says. "It's disgusting to me."

So she is especially pleased to be doing a play that addresses some of those bigotries.

"It's a very dear story," she says of "Memphis."

"It hits home in so many ways. ... It reminds us that people are still fighting for freedom, and for the right to be who they are, love who they choose, and that we still have so much work to do."

And while this is a play with music more than a message at its heart, she has no doubt that it can have an impact.

"Music is universal," she says.

"Our story is universal. Everybody wants to love and be loved. I have an opportunity to express joy and share love and wisdom and soothe hearts and remind people of a time when it was good - or ugly."

If you go

• What: The Broadway road show of the musical "Memphis."

• Presented by: Broadway in Tucson:

• By: David Bryan and Joe DiPietro.

• When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through next Thursday; 8 p.m. March 1; 2 and 8 p.m. March 2, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. March 3.

• Where: Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave.

• Cost: $29-$69.

• Reservations/information: broadwayintucson.com or at 1-800-745-3000. Purchase your tickets in person at the TCC box office, 260 S. Church Ave., to avoid the Ticketmaster handling fee.

• Running time: 2 1/2 hours, including one intermission.

• Cast: Includes Bryan Fenkart, Felicia Boswell, Rhett George and Julie Johnson.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com of 573-4128.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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