A fun, energetic romp through a brilliant back catalogue of classic rock and roll numbers, from some multi-talented performers, with interesting facts about the era in a show that opens on a high and continues up there throughout.
Million Dollar Quartet gives us an insight into the very early days of the careers of 4 truly iconic and brilliant music stars – Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis – as they are signed and begin producing hits with Sam Phillips, the radio DJ, record producer and owner of Sun Records. He ‘might well be the man who created rock ‘n’ roll’, and we learn a little about him and the history of the record label and he introduces and educates us on these 4 guys.
It feels like more of a concert experience than a narrative piece, but we do gain some knowledge of each of these stars in between their musical numbers, and the relationships between them and tensions they feel towards one another as they are under greater pressure to succeed and this is interestingly played out in amongst the music. There is a fair amount of peacock chest bumping and sizing up to each other, which we’ve seen enough of by the end of the first half – we get it – and at no point are we particularly emotionally challenged, but it’s small criticism in an entertaining, musical show.
I am quite happy with the focus being on the music, after all, this was one of the greatest eras for producing incredible hits, and the audience seems to thoroughly enjoy reliving some of these. Each of the actors impersonate well, and they are all incredibly talented. Ashley Carruthers as the, slightly later to the hit parade, Jerry Lee Lewis, gives a very funny performance, whilst delivering truly remarkable piano and vocal performances, and Ross William Wild is a great Elvis.
In amongst the bravado and male heavy company we are in, we get a welcome woman’s touch, with the introduction of Elvis’ girlfriend Dyanne. She was a singer herself and the guys play as she gives us an absolutely belting Fever, a real high point in the first half and another terrific performance.
The ‘session musicians’ who are on stage throughout – the drummer and double bassist – bring some extra muscle and magic to the renditions of these songs we know and love. Blue Suede Shoes, Memories are made of this, I Walk the Line, Hound Dog and Great Balls of Fire are punchy and just the right level of loud to get the room tapping their feet.
It’s a ‘Jukebox Musical’, but it’s one with a great cast and ensemble of musicians, and one I’d recommend for an easy, fun night out. 4/5
Review written by Laura Chatburn.
Million Dollar Quartet is currently showing at the Theatre Royal Brighton until Saturday 15th April. For more information on the production, visit here…