Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Million Dollar Quartet

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars

December 4th 1956, as the projection on the stage curtain points out prior to Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux's musical drama, marked one of the most significant moments in early rock and roll history. As Jason Donovan's Memphis record mogul Sam Phillips explains to the audience following a rousing rendition of Blue Suede Shoes by his young charges, it was the day that Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and an unknown Jerry Lee Lewis ended up in Phillips' legendary Sun studio together for the first and last time. The recordings of the impromptu jam session that followed immortalised one of the earliest supergroups to never take the stage.

In Ian Talbot's production of a decade-old Broadway hit now embarking on its first UK tour, on the one hand this becomes a feelgood nostalgia-fest featuring a series of rapid-fire rock and roll classics belted out by the four principals, alongside Katie Ray as Elvis' girlfriend Dyanne. On the other, it looks at the music business at shop floor level, with all the ego and ruthless ambition this first generation of pop stars set the template for.

Matthew Wycliffe's Carl is chippy at having been usurped by Ross William Wild's Elvis, who's taken to singing ballads and appearing in terrible movies since Phillips sold his contract to a major label. Robbie Durham's Johnny too has his eyes on life beyond Sun. Only Martin Kaye's hyped up Jerry Lee is in any way loyal to Sam. While there isn't anything here that you can't find in numerous biographies, to see what could be an extended anecdote reimagined with such vigour is a musical trainspotter's delight.

The Herald, November 3rd 2016


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