Theatre review: Million Dollar Quartet

Posted on: 11 March 2011 by Rhian Mainwaring

It shook my nerves and it rattled my brain....

Jerry Lee LewisThis new musical, fresh off broadway tells the electrifying story of the night that Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins came together to Jam at Sun records, and make history. It’s now showing at London’s Noel Coward Theatre and is well worth a visit!

If we hadn’t been told before the curtain rose that the actors were not miming, I’d have spent the entire show trying to work whether they were. Instead I spent the duration deliberating with my partner as to whether the performers were musicians, actors or impersonators. The cast brimmed with unquestionable musical talent, and it wasn’t so much the singing (you’d expect a musical actor to sing) that blew me away but the effortless way the characters played their instruments, perfectly encompassing their trademark mannerisms to boot.

I don’t think there was a single moment in the performance that was silent and for that you have to give a shout out to the bass section, Gez Gerrard and Adam Riley, who played the Bass and Drums of Jay Perkins and Fluke from the era. They didn’t miss a beat, which considering they held the timing of the entire show is a pretty impressive feat. Looking back it was probably the flawless timing and intricate staging, going from full volume and swing to a quiet still-life that brought the play to life.

The only time the play lacked pace was when the narrator, Sam Phillips (Head of Sun records) took to the stage. Not because of a bad performance, it just felt like the plot had been unnecessarily shoehorned in when it would have been more natural to see the interaction between the famous four - with their notorious rivalry. The female part of Diane felt like a last minute addition, although Francesca Jackson puts on a great performance and has a powerful voice, her role lacked substance, and was quite likely there to provide the harmonising, which she did exceptionally well.

ElvisIf you’re a fan of this era of music then it’s well worth a visit, even for the last 20 minutes where the plot finishes and the million dollar quartet are allowed to rock out on stage, glittery jackets and all, to their smash hit records. Keep an eye out for Ben Gerrard who plays Jerry Lee Lewis, arguably the star of the show, for his trademark chair kick, Robert Britton Lyons’ unstoppable electric guitar as Carl Perkins, (the only member of the cast who trained as a musician primarily) Elvis’ (Michael Malarky) knee trembling dance moves and Derek Hagen as Johnny Cash for his subtle, note perfect renditions of Cash’s hits.

The set and costume designs are bang on, and with some clever effects you’re reminded of just how iconic this day in the history of music was, and you genuinely feel like you’ve been transported back in time. It’s a great, ‘dancing in the aisles kind of night’ and you won’t be able to stop singing Blue Suede Shoes for weeks afterwards. Enjoy!

If you fancy going to see Million Dollar Quartet, you can find ticket information here!

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