X Factor's Matt Cardle Joins Beverley Knight In Memphis

Sophia Shluger
By Sophia Shluger Last edited 39 months ago
X Factor's Matt Cardle Joins Beverley Knight In Memphis ★★★★★ 5

Matt Cardle (Huey Calhoun) and London cast. Photo credit Johan Persson.

Londonist Rating: ★★★★★

Memphis has been playing at the Shaftsbury Theatre for a while but the show’s recently been refreshed with the addition of former X Factor star Matt Cardle, who astounds alongside the immensely talented singer Beverley Knight. It’s a no holds barred soul fest that electrifies the audience.

The story is set in 1950s Tennessee and follows Huey Calhoun (Cardle), a quirky, white southern man with a big heart and a relentless passion for contraband ‘negro’ music. Despite living in a time of racial division, Huey meets African-American Felicia (Knight) and the two embark on a romantic and professional musical journey together. Conflict ensues as they try to balance Felicia’s personal aspiration for stardom, Huey’s desire to finally make something out of himself, and the apparent impossibility of being together as an interracial couple.

Knight is stupendous in her role with a luscious, crystalline voice and strong, sweet portrayal of Felicia. Cardle’s vocal range is similarly breathtaking and is embellished by flirtatious liberties he takes with both his vocal pitch and on-stage persona. Equally impressive are supporting characters played by Jason Pennycooke, Simon Ray-Harvey and Claire Machin among a cast who all add to the show’s rich soulfulness.

And if that wasn’t feelgood enough, gorgeous costumes, cheerful choreography and a shiny fun set all give the show an extra degree of period glamour. These elements contrast the dark backdrop of such a difficult time in US history, and aqua, purple and blue lighting are used to strong effect during the story’s more heartfelt moments.

Memphis is music with a message, with Felicia’s dramatic number Coloured Women underlining the point that some people have choices and others have chances. Fortunately, in our time, Londoners have both a chance and a choice to see this superb modern musical.

Memphis continues its run at the Shaftesbury Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue WC2. Tickets start from £23. Londonist saw this performance on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 19 July 2015