Reviewed by Jan Dixon
This is about an impromptu jam session involving Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash on December 4th 1956 at the Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. This session was recorded by Sun Records producer Sam Phillips ‘Father of Rock’ n’ Roll’ and became known as the “Million Dollar Quartet”.
This one-off event prompted a musical show; this current stage production is written by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, directed by Olivier nominated Ian Talbot OBE, designed by David Farley, with lighting by David Howe and sound by Ben Harrison. The UK tour is produced by Mark Goucher and Laurence Myers. The stage is set up as the Sun Records recording studio for the duration of the show, with lighting enhancing ‘asides’ from the performers.
“Million Dollar Quartet” features 24 legendary rock hits, including Blue Suede Shoes, Fever, That’s All Right, Sixteen Tons, Great Balls of Fire, Walk the Line, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Who Do You Love?, Matchbox, Folsom Prison Blues and Hound Dog. These are divided between the two acts of the show and represent iconic songs and arrangements of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.
The reviewed performance was on the opening night, Tuesday 10th March 2020. The roles were played as follows: Ross William Wild (Elvis Presley); (Matthew Wycliffe) Jerry Lee Lewis; Philip Murray Warson (Carl Perkins) and Robbie Durham (Johnny Cash). These were amazing vocalists in the style of each singer, who also incorporated the idiosyncrasies of the character they were playing. In particular Matthew Wycliffe brought the exuberance and over-confident naivety of an as yet undiscovered Jerry Lee Lewis to the stage. Katie Ray played the role of Dyanne, a female singer that accompanied Elvis to the session, demonstrating her excellent vocal talent in a couple of numbers, including “Fever”.
Peter Duncan clearly enjoyed the resurrection of his role as Sun Records producer Sam Phillips, which he had previously played in the 2017 UK tour to great acclaim. Peter Duncan is described as an actor, adventurer and former Blue Peter presenter and can certainly add the accolade of excellent musical narrator to his achievements. His modulated voice, which explained the events that led up to, during and after the jam session, was a defining feature of the musical, explaining to the audience the premise behind the story. This also allowed the vocalists and band members to concentrate on their own individual performances.
Special mention should also go to James Swinnerton on double bass (Jay Perkins) and Luke Roberts on drums (Fluke). These were exceptional musicians, with James Swinnerton in particular showcasing his exceptional talents on the double bass, certainly bringing the instrument ‘alive’. Wow!
This musical about one of the most famous recording sessions in history ended by projecting the iconic picture of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash sitting round the piano in the Sun Records studio. This image was replicated on stage by the cast, to great effect. As a finale, the audience were treated to a number of songs and encouraged to sing along and dance, which they did with great enthusiasm.
Very highly recommended; definitely worth a 5-star rating! The audience participation and standing ovation at the close of the performance showed how well received it was! The show is on until Saturday 14th February 2020.
The Mayflower Theatre is close to railway links with a variety of car parks close-by. It is advisable to check the nearby Southampton football club fixtures as this can have an impact on the volume of traffic entering/leaving Southampton. Do allow for this when travelling to the venue. The theatre itself has recently been refurbished and looked stunning, with comfortable seating and plenty of leg room. Staff were very welcoming with a high standard of customer care.
Tickets cost from £21.50 to £44.50 (booking fees may apply).
Million Dollar Quartet is at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton from 10-14 March 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit www.mayflower.org.uk or call the box office on 02380 711811.
Mayflower Theatre, Commercial Road, Southampton, SO15 1GE | 02380 711811