Writer: Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux
Director: Ian Talbot
Reviewer: Fraser MacDonald
Inspired by the famous recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time, Million Dollar Quartet is a rockin’, rollin’, unstoppable force that cannot fail to delight its audience.
Transporting its audience to the Sun Records studio on 4 December 1956 in Memphis, Tennessee, the show begins with a rousing rendition of Blue Suede Shoes. From the outset, this show resembles a lock-in at a late night bar with a scorching hot session band.
Anchored by Sun Records manager Sam Phillips (Jason Donovan), audiences can enjoy the astounding live performance of some of the most recognisable hits of the 1950s as well as an insight into the beginnings of each artist of the famous quartet. The show provides a perfect balance of back story without getting weighed down with any complicated storyline – a downfall that many similar productions fail to get right.
Donovan excels in the role of Sam Phillips; a warm and welcoming compère to the show, only just managing to veil his business head from the quartet he has gathered to his studio. Donovan is instantly likeable, not only because of his recognition among the audience but in making the character believable from the outset. The talents of the four protagonists are simply astounding. Local boy Ross William Wild, from Aberdeen, gives an Elvis Presley very much of his own. This show is rather more an interpretation than a tribute; songs are performed honestly and with a clear influence from each performer. Rather than a cheap tribute show, Million Dollar Quartet achieves an integrity that makes the event a true experience rather than just a show.
Robbie Durham’s Johnny Cash is also notable but the real star of the show is, without doubt, Martin Kaye’s Jerry Lee Lewis. From the outset, his leg operates distinctively from the rest of his body in true Jerry Lee Lewis fashion. His skill in navigating his piano is extraordinary and his talent as an actor is clear. Kaye, who has come directly from Las Vegas with the show, brings a brazen confidence and infectious humour that makes him a real winner in the eyes of his audience. His rendition of Great Balls of Fire, in a sullen moment of the production, sets the theatre alight and his audience calling for more.
A real treat for the eyes and ears, Million Dollar Quartet is an experience not to be missed by any fan of the quartet. This is most likely the best touring production of 2016 – catch it until 5 November for some real fireworks at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre.
Runs until 5 November 2016 | Image: Contributed