The ‘Memphis’ blues

Felicia Boswell, Rhett George, Bryan Fenkart and Will Mann fail to make sweet soul music.

The only thing missing from “Memphis,” the formulaic musical currently at the Emerson Colonial Theatre, is soul. Unfortunately, it’s a critical piece of the puzzle.

Set in the South in the 1950s, this Tony award-winning musical (must’ve been a slow year on Broadway) is the tale of a white high school dropout who falls in love with rock ‘n’ roll, black music and a black woman with an amazing voice. His quest to bring her music to the world changes lives and cultures, while uniting intolerant, bigoted people.

The premise is not new and, unfortunately for this creative team, “Hairspray” did it so much better that it’s hard not to yearn for Tracy Turnblad during what should be some of the biggest, brightest moments of “Memphis.”

It’s painful to say, but the music, written by Bon Jovi’s David Bryan, while adequate, is forgettable. Joe DiPietro’s book also lacks the requisite oomph to make you root so hard for these people that you leap to your feet for the big finish.

The blank faces on the audience during “Steal Your Rock ‘n’ Roll,” (what should be the rousing final number) say it best. “Memphis” is fine, but nothing to get excited about.

The show’s listless essence does a great disservice to some incredibly talented performers. Felicia Boswell reaches the rafters with hair-raising vocals while Bryan Fenkart delivers a delightful turn as Huey. Julie Johnson also earns raves as Gladys, while Will Mann, unfortunately, seems to run out of steam early in Act II.

Plot points

Huey, whose calling is “playing race music for white folks,” becomes a radio and TV star in Memphis for doing what he loves best. Unfortunately, his love for black singing sensation Felicia is no match for racial strife or her desire to make it in the music business.

If you go



Through Dec. 23

Colonial Theatre

106 Boylston St., Boston

Tickets start at $34



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