Royal Festival Hall, London – until 2 January 2017
At the Royal Festival Hall over the Christmas season and then on tour, Million Dollar Quartet offers up some of the finest cuts of vintage rockabilly and rock n roll procured from some of the most legendary names in the history of music.
Inspired by the true story of the famed 1956 recording session where Sun Records’ Sam Phillips, brought together icons Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, the show peels back the pages of the calendar. This was a time when the airwaves went from strictly black and white to Technicolor in a musical fusion ignited by some white guys playing black music in a way that had never been heard before. And it set the world in motion.
Phillips is played by Martin Kemp (of the 1980’s Spandau Ballet fame) who heads a remarkably talented cast. Martin Kaye’s reprisal of Jerry Lee Lewis is brilliant in both performance and music, oozing a charming yet hilarious southern charisma that brings a comedic element to the show alongside an electrifying piano ability.
Matthew Wycliffe embodies guitar virtuoso Carl Perkins both in performance and an uncanny visual resemblance, delivering tenfold with his solo riffs on the guitar. Robbie Durham does a great job as the Man in Black, bringing some sweet signature guitar mannerisms and playing styles, as Ross William Wild takes on the hefty task of playing the King. Making all the right moves, Wild also takes time to offer a touch of vulnerability, showing a side to Elvis that is not often portrayed.
The show includes more than 20 legendary rock ‘n’ roll hits, including Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, I Walk The Line and Great Balls of Fire. Whilst celebrating the talents of the on stage characters Million Dollar Quartet also respectfully tips its hat to their fellow southern musicians and African American contemporaries including Little Walter and Chuck Berry who were recording north of the Mason Dixon line at Chicago’s Chess Records.
A juke box musical maybe – but Million Dollar Quartet is quite simply a stunningly performed tribute to a pivotal episode in the history of rock n roll.
See it before Elvis leaves the building!
Runs until 2nd January 2017, then tours. Tour dates here.Reviewed by Josh Kemp (no relation…)