In 1956, four legends – Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley – all ended up in the same recording studio together for what became a star-studded impromptu jam session. Talk about a ‘fly on the wall’ type situation…
Lucky for us, we are given a glimpse into what this could’ve looked like. Million Dollar Quartet recreates this day, incorporating some of our favourite songs from the 50’s, such as ‘Fever,’ ‘Brown Eyed Handsome Man,’ and ‘Memories Are Made of This.’
The show is narrated by Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Record, and the man who gave these four their starts into the business. We learn of the real stories that happened during this time – how Elvis got ‘Blue Suede Shoes,’ Jerry Lee’s multiple marriages, and how the boys hold similarities within their family struggles. These, along with multiple tunes, are weaved through the main storyline of Phillip’s desire to keep these boys with him as the rise into fame.
With much excitement from the crowd from his first steps on stage, Martin Kemp took the role of Sam Phillips, capturing both the high’s and low’s of what Phillip’s went through with Sun Studios. The boys are a solid group of great actors and musicians – Ross William Wild as Elvis, Robbie Durham as Johnny Cash, Matt Wycliffe as Carl Perkins, and Martin Kaye as Jerry Lee Lewis. The chemistry between these four brought the story to life, but it was their musicianship that really captured the event. Wycliffe rocked the guitar with major solos, even playing behind his back in the encore! I also had the pleasure of seeing Kaye as Jerry Lee the first time I had ever seen the show, 6 years ago in the USA, so I was very excited to see how he’s grown. Once again, he blew me away with his incredible skill on the keys – banging each note out, unable to sit still in true Jerry Lee style. A lovely addition to the cast was Katie Ray as Dyanne, Elvis’s then-girlfriend, coming in the songs with a great harmony, and even smashing a few solos on her own.
I am a major oldies girl – the 50’s are some of my favourite times in music. I knew that I was going to enjoy the show, but this was more than I had expected. I could barely sit still in my seat – and that was nothing compared to the audience! Standing up and dancing in their seats at the encore, as well as a couple even running to the front for a bit of swing dancing! It was an absolutely lovely atmosphere to celebrate some of the men who shaped the music we listen to today.
I couldn’t recommend the show enough. And if that doesn’t convince you of how much I enjoyed it, I’ve already got another set of tickets to go next week!
Reviewed by Caity O’Shaughnessy
MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET plays at the Royal Festival Hall until 2 January 2017. Tickets