The critically acclaimed Memphis, winner of four 2010 Tony awards, including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book and Best Orchestrations, is raising the roof at the Academy of Music through Sunday.
And as if those awards were not enough, the musical also boasts four Drama Desk awards, and four Outer Critic Circle awards.
The show takes place in the smoky halls and underground clubs of the segregated ’50s, where a young white DJ named Huey Calhoun falls in love with everything he shouldn’t — rock ’n’ roll and Felicia, an electrifying black singer played by Felicia Boswell.
“The action takes place on Beale Street in the heart of downtown Memphis,” Boswell explained. “Felicia, who dreams of having her voice heard around the world, comes in contact with this quirky Caucasian DJ who promises to help her promote her career, and bring her voice to mainstream radio and eventually achieve her dream.”
According to Boswell, ‘The two find love but also the discomfort of being an interracial couple in the 1950s South where such couples could literally lose their lives. Felicia wants to move up north to New York to be safe, but Huey is afraid to step out in this world he’s helped to create.”
Boswell, who grew up in the South and began singing when she was just about 5 years old with a gospel group headed by her father, John Boswell, said that although she had no formal training she always knew she’d grow up to be a performer.
Insisting she was just born with the ability to sing, act and dance, over the years she’s appeared in many coveted roles in many stellar productions, including Dreamgirls, Rent, AIDA, Beehive and more.
On Broadway, she also understudied the role of Felicia until she was chosen to own the role for herself in this national tour.
Handpicked by the show’s director, Boswell had been well on her way to star in The Lion King.
“It had been exciting to understudy the role of Felicia. I even appeared in the role on Broadway several times,” Boswell said. “But I was looking for other opportunities when the offer to play the role on the tour came along.”
Boswell had already signed to be in The Lion King but bowed out when the national tour of Memphis came along. “And the people at The Lion King knew me and so were very understanding. I just knew doing the role of Felicia was where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to be doing.”
And maybe, Boswell offered, that fatalistic feeling could be the fact that she and the “other Felicia” have so much in common.
“To begin with,” Boswell said, “We share the same first name. Also, we’re both from the South, grew up singing gospel music, recorded, and have both dated Caucasian men.”
Additionally, she offered, “In the show, a reference is made to Rosa Parks, who happens to be my cousin. Rosa and my grandmother share the same maternal grandparents. Growing up, I knew Rosa was important but I never realized just how important she was. I remember when this quiet, meek woman came to town, she’d stay at my grandmother’s house, and my dad would take us over to see her and sing for her.”
But even without all the parallels in their lives, Boswell is thrilled to be playing the role of Felicia in Memphis.
“This is a great role and a great opportunity to be playing with such great actors in a wonderful company,” she said. ••
For times and ticket information, call 215-731-3333.EndFragment