Review – Million Dollar Quartet – Devonshire Park, Eastbourne

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The stage set for Million Dollar Quartet is the inside of a recording studio. A quite shabby and run down studio that hides one of music’s most amazing tales because tonight, for one night only, four of the greatest names in Rock n Roll history will meet with the man who “found” them all, Sam Phillips of Sun Records.

It is Rock n Roll from start to finish in this cleverly written story which tells of how Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis, four young men trying to make it in the music business, came to be the legends that they are today.

Martin Kaye is both wonderfully crazy and incredibly redneck as piano stomper Jerry, with Matthew Wycliffe, as Carl Perkins, less than impressed that Jerry is the new addition to the Sun Records stable. Robbie Durham is every inch the gravel voiced crooner Johnny Cash and Rhys Whitfield is surprisingly humble and understated as Elvis.

Part concert, part documentary, we quickly learn, through some very cleverly staged flashbacks, how each man came to be working for Sun Records and, in particular, for Sam Phillips. Peter Duncan plays Sam, the man who many people believe created Rock n Roll. His southern drawl never slips as he narrates the action that is unfolding before our eyes, and he is totally believable in both the highs, and the lows, of life at Sun Records.

With the “quartet” playing three guitars and one piano, together with Ben Culllingworth on Drums and James Swinnerton on Double Bass, the sound is full, clear, and as authentic to the original 1950’s hits as it can be. Vocals are powerful, both from the stage and from the very appreciative audience.

The final member of the cast is Katie Ray who plays Elvis’s very shy and demure girlfriend Dyanne. Elvis mentions that she is a singer and so, as this is just a jam session between friends, she agrees to take the microphone, and Katie Ray delivers the most stunning version of Fever. Luckily she gets a second chance to grab the mic, and loses all of her shyness, as she blasts out I Hear You Knocking in Act 2.

Featuring a score of rock hits including Blue Suede Shoes, That’s All Right, Sixteen Tons, Great Balls of Fire, Walk the Line, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Who Do You Love?, See You Later Alligator and many more, it’s a non-stop cavalcade of everything that made 1950’s Rock n Roll so cool and fresh.

Although the storyline is quite thin, that is not what Million Dollar Quartet is all about. What it succeeds in doing, and doing perfectly, is to give the audience an opportunity to witness an amazing night of clashing egos and magical music – when four young men set out on the path to become Rock n Roll legends.

*****            Five Stars

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About Author

I have lived in Sussex for the past 15 years and have links with many of the arts venues throughout the county. I am passionate about the local arts scene and, as well as providing reviews of local performances, I also preview some of the exciting shows and events taking place around the county. I have devoted all of my working life to the worlds of theatre and travel so, when I am not on holiday somewhere, you can usually find me at one of our superb local theatres, or simply enjoying life with my young son.

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