Austin | Dallas | Houston
Bringing back the '50s

The star of Memphis talks race and rock 'n' roll before Austin debut

Enlarge
Slideshow
Memphis at Bass Concert Hall
Jasmin Richardson as Felicia and Joey Elrose as Huey and National Tour Cast of Memphis. Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Memphis at Bass Concert Hall
The Tony Award-winning Memphis comes to Bass Concert Hall on December 10-15. Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Memphis at Bass Concert Hall
The award winning score of Memphis is all original compositions. Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Memphis at Bass Concert Hall
Memphis at Bass Concert Hall
Memphis at Bass Concert Hall

Actor Joey Elrose describes the real life man who inspired the character he plays in Broadway Musical Memphis saying, “He was in love with the music and he was a rebel and he pushed the limits.” Elrose, along with his 21 castmates, will bring audiences back to the '50s during Memphis’ run December 10-15 at Bass Concert Hall

Memphis, the 2010 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, tells the story of Huey Calhoun (portrayed by Elrose), the first white DJ to play rhythm and blues music on mainstream radio in the 1950s. In addition to falling in love with what was then often referred to as race music, Calhoun falls for a black blues singer (played by Jasmin Richardson) in a Memphis club, during a time when interracial couples were mostly considered taboo.

Memphis is loosely based on the true-life story of white DJ Dewey Phillips, who was not only the first white DJ to play ‘race music’ in the middle of the dial, he was also the first DJ to play Elvis Presley on the radio.

“He’s fighting for equality and believes there is no reason why people shouldn’t be loved for who they are and not the color of their skin. And if race music is good, [he believes] it should be accepted by everyone.”

Memphis is loosely based on the true-life story of white DJ Dewey Phillips, who was not only the first white DJ to play ‘race music’ in the middle of the dial, he was also the first DJ to play Elvis Presley on the radio. 

To prepare for the part, Elrose says he read Phillips’ biography and listened to some of the DJ’s old radio broadcasts. He also immersed himself in '50s music. Unlike many jukebox musicals that open up catalogs of classic songs, Memphis contains only original music.  

“The score is just incredible,” Elrose raves.  The Tony Award winning music was written by Joe DiPietro and Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan. “The music is an amazing mix. It’s not just all rock and roll. It’s got blues and it’s got gospel and contemporary mainstream pop.”

Elrose says Memphis is a great mix of music and message. “It’s a message of tolerance — social equality. That’s really what we touch upon. In the show, we are dealing with race, but it’s still so relevant now. People today are still going through civil rights battles. There are still relationships that are frowned upon.”

Elrose says despite the sometimes serious subject matter, Memphis keeps audiences laughing. “I think it’s by far the funniest show I’ve ever been in. It’s a laugh a second.”

“I think the draw right off the bat is the amazing music and how entertaining the show is — it’s funny and the music and dancing are incredible,” says Elrose. “Then you add on top of that the amazing message that we have and that’s why you come see Memphis!”  

---

You can see Memphis at Bass Concert Hall December 10-15.

Newsletters for exploring your city

Daily Digest

Austin news, views + events

Insider Offers

Curated experiences at exclusive prices

Promo Alerts

Special offers + exclusive deals

We will not share or sell your email address