Shows are getting shorter, often without an interval. This is something I’ve noticed when visiting the theatre recently to see performances that frequently last less than two hours. I am often grateful – I easily exhaust watching plays every night.
You may have seen the bright Million Dollar Quartet sign near Leicester Square, it has been up for some time. The musical celebrates the night that four of the greatest rock’n’roll legends came together: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins under the guidance of Sam Phillips, record producer at Sun Records. On this night in 1956 the four have an epic jam session and make music history.
This show is lots of fun, and the score will delight visitors of all ages. The production is less a musical than a tribute act, with four very talented impersonators. There is little narrative, so if you need the loo halfway through the most you’re going to miss is a favourite Elvis number. While watching, I found many parallels with Woody Sez, the show on just round the corner showcasing folk artist Woody Guthrie’s life and music. There are also numerous similarities with great box office success ‘Jersey Boys’, even noticeable in the staging that favours dramatic static poses and strong silhouettes.
Of the four performers Ben Goddard sparkles brightest, playing the cheeky Jerry Lee Lewis, he has a magnetic spirit and an irresistible charm. He is an exceptional pianist and has a voice that is full of fire. Goddard energises the score matching the original Jerry Lee’s star quality. Robert Britton Lyons has a tricky task playing the less famous musician Carl Perkins, luckily his supreme guitar skills make up for the slightly bland characterisation. Both Derek Hagen (Johnny Cash) and Michael Malarkey (Elvis Presley) fulfil the brief as their respective legends, it is a pleasure to listen to their renditions of some classic numbers and they seem to love being up there. There is secure back-up too from Francesca Jackson as Presley’s squeeze, Dyanne and Bill Ward as the enthusiastic ringleader Sam Phillips.
Although Million Dollar Quartet may not be as durable as its competitors no-one can deny the talent and fun that the show displays by the bucket-load.
Continues at the Noel Coward Theatre until 1 October 2011, book here.