Though the story at points lacks momentum, the Rock n' Roll of four legends will have you on your feet dancing.
4th December, 1956 – an influential date that marked the history of Rock’n’Roll. On that day, four stars came together for a lifetime jamming session at Sun Records. Those stars were Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins; and the recording of that day was named Million Dollar Quartet.
Hollywood director Floyd Mutrux decided this story was fit for a musical, and decided to join forces with Colin Escott, author of Good Rockin’ Tonight: Sun Records and The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, the first in-depth account of the Sun Records story. The musical first opened on Broadway in 2010 and then on the West End in 2011, where it ran for a year. Now it’s on tour in the UK – Ian Talbot’s production of Million Dollar Quartet has already performed at Glasgow and Southampton, and is currently at the Hippodrome Theatre in Bristol until Saturday 3rd December. It will finally move to London for three weeks, performing at the Royal Festival Hall from the 17th December until the 2nd January.
The show opens with Sam Phillips, played by world-renowned international star Jason Donovan, the founder and owner of Sun Records, the record label that launched Elvis Presley’s career. This is the only non-singing role in the play, and the role will later be replaced by Martin Kemp, famous English actor and musician, in London. His character narrates the story, and walks us through what happened that day.
The show manages to take you through around twenty of the top rock and roll hits of all times. Hits like ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, ‘I Walk the Line’ and ‘Great Balls of Fire’ are executed exceptionally. Ross William Wild as Elvis, Matthew Wycliffe as Carl Perkins, Robbie Durham as Johnny Cash and Martin Kaye as Jerry Lee Lewis all give brilliant performances. Kaye as Jerry Lee Lewis is a particularly witty character and is glorious with the piano. He’s entering his fifth year with the show and has clearly mastered his role.
However, the story itself lacks momentum. During the first act barely nothing interesting happens, and in the second this doesn’t change much. It is true that some pressure builds towards the end between characters due to a conflict over ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, a song composed by Perkins but ‘stolen’ by Elvis – but that’s about as high as tensions go.
If you are a music fan, despite the lack of story, Million Dollar Quartet will get you dancing and clapping away at some incredibly performed hits. Mayflower Theatre rose to their feet during three entire songs at the end but even from the start, we were all nudging our heads to the rhythm of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Million Dollar Quartet is currently performing at the Hippodrome Theatre, Bristol. Find tour dates and ticket information for the UK tour here.