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Friday, 13 March 2020

Million Dollar Quartet | Mayflower Theatre

Names like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash are names that you can't help but know. Even though I have never listened to much of the traditional rock 'n' roll music, I've always been interested in the era, so when I saw that Million Dollar Quartet was coming to the Mayflower Theatre, I was interested. I was invited to watch the show to review it and was so excited!

The musical hit is 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. Each a star in their own right, they were all associated with Sun Records, the recording studios owned by record producer Sam Phillips. On December 4th 1956, the four musicians gathered at Sun Records in Memphis for what would be one of the greatest moments in music history.

I was a bit unsure about how a musical could focus on the events of one day - would there be enough of a story to tell? But this did not disappoint. I went in with no knowledge of Sun Records or the iconic jam session between the four musicians, but I was mesmerised throughout. The combination of the story, with the toe-tapping music and the amazing performances on stage really held my attention. Even if you aren't really familiar with the event or even the music of the time, there are hits for everybody to recognise and enjoy, including Blue Suede Shoes, Fever and Hound Dog.
Photo courtesy of Mayflower Theatre
The performance really reminded me of Motown the Musical (you can read my review of that here). It tells the story of the "Father of Rock 'n' Roll" Sam Phillips, and his record company Sun Records, following Elvis's move to work with RCA. Sam Phillips, played by Peter Duncan, is our narrator for the show. He steps out of the action from time to time, to fill the audience in on what's going on and going into more detail about how each of the four rock 'n' roll icons found their way to Sun Records. This was really helpful for me, as I instantly knew what was going on and could follow the story easily. I really liked hearing about how the stars first approached Sam Phillips. You always have this idea that performers like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash were so confident, but showing their back stories in the musical like this shows them lacking that assuredness of themselves. Everyone has to start somewhere, after all!
Photo courtesy of Million Dollar Quartet
The whole cast were amazing. While Jerry Lee Lewis (Matthew Wycliffe) will wow you with his piano playing with his feet, Ross Wild authentically brings The King, Elvis Presley, to life of stage. It must be so hard bringing these real people to life onstage, as opposed to a fictional character, but I think everyone did their characters proud. And to top it off, the cast play their instruments live on stage. I really think this adds another layer to the performance, making you feel like you're really in the recording studio back in 1956.

Just when you think the show couldn't get any better, you get to hear an authentic recording of Down By The Riverside, a song from the show. When the photograph of the four musicians appears as the music begins, it is really magical. What an end to an incredible show!

I really enjoyed this, much more than I expected! I'd thoroughly recommend seeing it. You can buy tickets for the remaining performances at the Mayflower Theatre here.

Love Lexie

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