By Samantha Noble & Julie Cousins.

When you see the Queen of British Soul Music’s name headlining at a theatre, it’s a pretty safe bet that it’s going to be a fabulous production. Combine Beverley Knight with Killian Donnelly (The Commitments) and that’s exactly what you have, an up-beat, high tempo and engaging performance that will have you dancing in your seats.

Memphis, 2014, Credit: Johan Persson/

MEMPHIS: The Musical opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre in October 2014. JOHAN PERSSON

The story is relatively simple. It’s set in Memphis in 1955, where white prejudice and strict segregation laws are rife. It begins with our white rebel hero, Huey Calhoun, stumbling into the Beale Street nightclub, where he meets young, black rhythm & blues singer, Felicia.

Despite the hostile reception he initially receives, Huey is soon welcomed by those in the club, as he demonstrates his love and passion for black music. Huey is working as a back room stock assistant at a department store, where he is about to be fired for his lack of interest in the role.

He convinces his boss to let him stay under the condition that he sells five records within the music department, by playing his tunes loud over the speakers. Despite him actually selling over three times the agreed amount, the storeowner fires him due to the genre of music played.

Memphis, 2014, Credit: Johan Persson/

Driven by his love for music, Huey returns once more to Beale Street where Felicia gives a vocally sensational performance and the forbidden relationship begins. JOHAN PERSSON

Driven by his love for music, Huey returns once more to Beale Street where Felicia gives a vocally sensational performance and the forbidden relationship begins. He promises to get her talents heard on the radio and begins applying for DJ jobs at various local, white radio stations. One radio station invites him to listen to what a mainstream radio DJ sounds like; it is here that Huey hijacks the microphone and plays Everybody Wants To Be Black on a Saturday Night.

The station manager is about to have him thrown out, when the phone starts to ring and dozens of teens insist they hear more of his music. Huey is given a trial and during this time, is asked to read aloud an advert for beer, but struggles as he has no choice but to improvise. The advert sounded nothing like it was intended, especially at the end, as Huey omits the phrase ‘Hockadoo!

He is about to be fired on the spot, but is saved by the owner of the store, who calls in to speak to the station manager – he says he wants Huey to do all his adverts in future, as his stock sold out in minutes. Huey’s popularity continues to build as he begins to captivate a new generation of young, white fans, whilst also trying to break down social barriers; paving the way for a musical revolution.

Memphis, 2014, Credit: Johan Persson/

Killian Donnelly (Huey Calhoun) and Rolan Bell (Delray). JOHAN PERSSON

He uses the platform to promote his current love interest, Felicia, by inviting her into the studio to perform live with a band. She becomes an instant hit. Time passes and Huey proposes to Felicia. Felicia rejects him, but they share a kiss, which is overlooked by a vicious gang of white men who – because of their prejudices – hold Huey down whilst they beat Felicia.

Huey manages to carry Felicia back to the nightclub where her brother, Delray, is waiting. Delray immediately demands an end to their relationship. The phrase ‘Hockadoo’ continues to be used throughout the story, as Huey is asked to host his own TV variety show. Felicia is asked to be Huey’s first guest, as they continue their relationship in secret. She backs out, and is forced into choosing between her relationship and her career, after she is discovered by a talent agency in New York. She begs Huey to move with her, insisting they wouldn’t have to sneak around.

In a bid to keep her in Memphis, Huey kisses her live on air, causing the network to pull the show. Four years later and Felicia returns to Memphis before embarking on a national tour, whereby she finds Huey working at a low budget radio station. She asks him to join her on stage, before she leaves with her fiancé, Bill. He refuses – which is met by sighs from the audience – until halfway through the final number, he finishes with a song. The final words belong to Huey, as the show closes with: ‘The name is Huey Calhoun. Goodnight and Hockadoo!

MEMPHIS: The Musical opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre in October 2014. School groups of 10+ can receive a discounted rate of £25, with the 11th ticket free. Complementary entry for one accompanying teacher is available per 10 students. For more information visit www.memphisthemusical.com