quartet

Million Dollar Quartet 

Malvern Theatres

****

THIS is the story of a jam session that is considered a seminal moment in rock and roll history and one which only happened by chance.

It was later dubbed the Million Dollar Quartet and is a recording of impromptu music making involving Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash which was made on December 4, 1956, when they all converged at the Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.

The musical brings that legendary day to life when sometime in the early afternoon a 21 year old Elvis with new found stardom, a former Sun artist now with RCA Victor, arrived to pay a casual visit accompanied by a girlfriend, Dyanne, here he finds his old friend Sam Phillips played by Jason Donovan, who has brought in his latest acquisition, Jerry Lee Lewis, still unknown outside Memphis, to play piano.

At that time Carl Perkins had already had a hit record with Blue Suede Shoes and was in the studio to record some new songs when Elvis calls in and decides to join in and soon after Johnny Cash arrives after being told to get down to the studio.

The quartet all in their early twenties, is played by four superb actor musicians. Martin Kaye (Jerry Lee Lewis) who has played the role on the first North American tour of Million Dollar Quartet as well as the Las Vegas production of the show, Robbie Durham (Johnny Cash), Ross William Wild (Elvis Presley) and Matt Wycliffe (Carl Perkins). And they're all well supported by Ben Cullingworth on drums, James Swinnerton on bass and Kate Ray as Dyanne the girlfriend of Elvis.

There is plenty to admire in Jason Donovan's performance and authentic deep south accent as he captures his legendary character to perfection, a businessman/music producer who made music history by bringing four phenomenal recording stars together.

The background stories and details about the performers are delivered by Sam Phillips who acts as narrator. Typically, as a member from the Quartet enters for the first time, he sings a verse of one of his most famous songs, followed by an onstage freeze of all actors. During this time Sam Phillips relates to the audience how he first discovered the boy and a brief few line scene of that moment occurs between Phillips and the musician, followed by Sam Phillips asking the boy to play something for him, which is the next verse of the song and everyone unfreezes. 

The party really started to swing come the encores when the audience really seemed to engage with the music and the performers, especially the high energy of the unconventional Jerry Lee Lewis.

Featuring 23 hit songs including That’s All Right, Walk the Line, Folsom Prison Blues and Great Balls of Fire, this is much more than just another rock and roll musical, it's Sam Phillips's story and the pivotal work he did at Sun in the 1950s. To 22-10-16

Johnathan Gray

17-10-16 

Index page Malvern Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre