Back in 1956 a moment of music history was created at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, when Sam Phillips (Peter Duncan) and a fair amount of good luck brought together Jerry Lee Lewis (Ashley Carruthers), Carl Perkins (Matthew Wycliffe), Johnny Cash (Robbie Durham) and Elvis Presley (Ross Williams). The four artists became known as the Million Dollar Quartet, the name under which the news article was written. Sun records was one of the smaller studios, struggling to compete with the likes of RCA and Columbia. Sam thought that this would be a boost for the studio, bringing back Elvis, re-signing Johnny Cash, getting Carl Perkins back at the top of the charts and kick starting Jerry Lee Lewis’ career, but this plan did not quite work out.
This is as much of a story as can be strung together from this happenstance unfortunately. The combination of narrative interweaved with the story line was a tricky balance to keep up for Peter Duncan, but at times this led to some of the songs being cut short and the performance losing some of the flow. It was trying to give you some of the back story, which was nostalgic, however more impact was needed to give it a reason to meander down memory lane and not feel like a history lesson. The biggest songs were naturally reserved ’til last, but when the cast tried to cue a bit of participation, the audience missed and they had to ‘take two’.
The highlight was the performances by the band who did a great job of evoking the artists, a particular highlight was Ashley Carruthers whose maniacal piano playing channelled the wild performances of Jerry Lee Lewis in full flow.
This was an entertaining performance which did a good job of being true to original performances, but lacked entertainment factor, aside from the big rock and roll numbers at the end. Go and see if you are a die hard fan, but not for the casual rock and rollers.
Million Dollar Quartet is running at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking until 2nd April 2017.