Theatre Review: Million Dollar Quartet - King's Theatre, Glasgow ✭✭✭✭
Memphis, Tennessee, December 4th 1956. At the Sun Record Studios rock and roll history is made as Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash serendipitously converge and engage in an impromptu jam session which will go down in rock and roll history. Written by Colin Escott and Flloyd Mutrux, 'Million Dollar Quartet' dramatises this event and is a celebration of rock and roll music and the greats who performed and lived it.
Each of the quartet members plays and sings live and their talent is a wondrous thing tobehold, each inhabiting their roles with unbridled energy, especially Martin Kaye as 'Jerry Lee Lewis' who is outstanding in the part, bringing much comedy along the way together with outstanding skills on the piano. Matthew Wycliffe as 'Carl Perkins' also shines with his portrayal of the professional rivalry Perkins has with the other quartet members is another stimulating aspect of the production. Ross William Wild and Robbie Durham, as 'Elvis Presley' and 'Johnny Cash' respectively, are equally gifted and all four are exciting to watch. Katie Ray makes a sizable impact as 'Dyanne', the only woman onstage, and her voice is dynamite. The cast are expertly supported by Ben Cullingworth on drums and James Swinnerton on bass.
As the emotional core of the drama, Jason Donovan as 'Sam Phillips' maintains a strong presence amongst the excitement going on about him and he is able to centre the production whilst appropriately delivering the bulk of exposition; his central part in the culmination of the dramatic events enables its convincing execution to an emotionally appropriate end. If acting really is about re-acting then Donovan has nailed it in a role that utterly demands it.
Whilst a sizable chunk of the script by Escott and Mutrux serves as exposition and back story for each singer - threatening to become little more than linking material in doing so - it does become more dramatically resonant in the second act enabling the show to reach an appropriately sombre ending satisfyingly lifted by a rousing rock-out-finale that leaves the receptive audience on a high.
Ian Talbot's direction is unfussy and clear, serving the script fittingly whilst allowing his cast to bloom and thrive and David Farley's compact unit set of the Sun Records Studio serves and functions well and is complimented by a sharp lighting and sound design, by David Howe and Ben Harrison respectively, that can barely be more appropriate for the production.
True, the script is a bit contrived at times and deserves more of a solid structure throughout but the musical quality and the cast make 'Million Dollar Quartet' a rousing, energetic production that seeks to risebeyond the ordinary jukebox musical, adding a dash of humanity and drama in the telling of a real-life event.
And it succeeds much better than expected. Much!