Mayflower, Southampton – 22 to 26 November 2016. Reviewed by Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
It could be viewed that the stars were in perfect alignment that December night in 1956 when Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis gathered at Sun Records, Sam Phillips recording studio in Memphis. Often described as the man that created the term Rock ‘n’ Roll there is no doubt Phillips created a moment that will go down in musical history and Million Dollar Quartet is about this moment.
Drawing on hits from the four stars of the day this show interweaves the history of that night plus the background as to how Phillips discovered such talent. With easily recognisable Rock ‘n’ Roll hits such as Blue Suede Shoes, Folsome Prison Blues, Great Balls of Fire, See You Later Alligator, Long Tall Sally, I Walk the Line and so much more, it is easy to see the genius of Phillips in discovering, nurturing and promoting such talents.
Matthew Wycliffe (Perkins) gives a sterling performance as both actor and musician, playing the guitar with consummate ease; he is a natural in the role. Equally, Martin Kaye (Lewis) who has played this role for a number of years in the US is impressive and exciting and although this ‘newcomer’ to the group is exuberant and manic he is a clear favourite with the audience and steals many of the best lines in the show. There is a slightly brooding undertone to Robbie Durham (Cash) who is the quiet one of the four and has the tone and mannerisms of Cash off to a tee. Ross William Wild (Elvis) is clearly the most famous of the four and there is a bristling between him and Perkins over Blue Suede Shoes that is palpable, perhaps justified and perhaps a turning point in both their careers. Amongst this collection of musical talent and be aware these performers are playing their instruments live on stage, is Katie Ray as Dyanne, Presley’s girlfriend at the time. With a superb rendition of Fever, Ray makes herself seen and heard amongst a group of extremely strong males.
Donovan (Sam Phillips) is the link that holds the other characters together and although there are moments when his character is somewhat lost amongst the main four, it is clear Phillips was a force to be reckoned with in the music industry and Donovan reflects this.
Million Dollar Quartet is a guaranteed fabulous night out and clearly evident judging by the audience reaction.