Subscribe      List an Event or Business      Invite a Writer      Write for WN      Writers      Other Locations

Million Dollar Quartet at Birmingham Hippodrome - Review

Home > Birmingham > Music | Musicals | Shows | Theatre | Theatre Reviews
by Andy Coleman (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Birmingham. I like Classic Rock, 70s pop music, football and interviewing celebrities. Follow me on Twitter: @andycoleman9
Event: -
Historic music event recreated on stage
Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, jamming together in a recording studio. It really happened – at Sam Phillips' Sun Records in Memphis on December 4, 1956 – and Tony Award-winning musical Million Dollar Quartet recreates that historic event on a UK tour that is at Birmingham Hippodrome until October 29, 2016.

Million Dollar Quartet, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Phillips, Sun Records, Birmingham Hippodrome, Theatre Review
Priceless: The Million Dollar Quartet cast


The jam began as a Carl Perkins' recording session, with new Sun signing Jerry Lee Lewis playing piano. Former Sun Records' artist Elvis Presley decided to drop in to see label owner Sam Phillips, the man who had signed him, so Sam invited another Sun star, Johnny Cash, to join the party, taking the opportunity to make the official announcement that he was willing to extend Johnny's contract by three years.

What a great premise for a musical production! The audience is treated to over 20 rock 'n' roll classics, beginning with Blue Suede Shoes and concluding with Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On which had everyone in the theatre on their feet, dancing along. In between is a fine cross section of songs, including Peace In The Valley, Walk The Line, Long Tall Sally and Down By the Riverside.

Million Dollar Quartet, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Phillips, Sun Records, Birmingham Hippodrome, Theatre Review
Legendary: The cast recreate the iconic photograph taken on December 4, 1956


What the production reveals is the contrast between the happiness and optimism of the performers when they are singing and their unhappiness and pessimism when they are not.

In the non-singing role of Sam Phillips, Jason Donovan acts as both narrator and participant, moving the story along and introducing the flashbacks that explain how each singer came to be signed to Sun Records.

Million Dollar Quartet, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Phillips, Sun Records, Birmingham Hippodrome, Theatre Review
Narrator: Jason Donovan with James Swinnerton


We see that Carl Perkins (Birmingham-born Matt Wycliffe) is bitter that his self-penned number one hit, Blue Suede Shoes, was purloined by Elvis, so much so that people thought Carl's version was a cover of Elvis' hit. With Carl now desperately trying to find another hit, he complains that Jerry Lee Lewis is putting too much piano on his guitar records.

Million Dollar Quartet, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Phillips, Sun Records, Birmingham Hippodrome, Theatre Review
Bitter: Matt Wycliffe as Carl Perkins


Johnny Cash (Robbie Durham) is also despondent as Sam has told him he can't make a Gospel record. Sam doesn't know that another record company is willing to release a Cash album of sacred songs.

Elvis (Ross William Wild) is frustrated for the opposite reason. Sam had sold his contract to RCA Records for $40,000, money that kept Sun in business. Despite Elvis now being a megastar, making movies in Hollywood, he yearns to return to the family atmosphere of Sun Records.

And then there is Jerry Lee Lewis (Martin Kaye), the joker in the pack. He's apparently the only one happy with his lot – except he has doubts about the fact that he plays 'the devil's music'. Young, enthusiastic and confident that one day he'll be a megastar, it's Jerry Lee that gets the audience laughing – and dancing.

Million Dollar Quartet, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Phillips, Sun Records, Birmingham Hippodrome, Theatre Review
Joker: Martin Kaye as Jerry Lee Lewis


We also meet Elvis' girlfriend Dyanne (Katie Ray) who shows she can hold a tune with the best of them on Fever and I Hear You Knocking.

These types of productions stand or fall on the musical abilities of the cast and in this respect Million Dollar Quartet is a real winner. The actors sound like the stars they are portraying and the musicianship is first class. Matthew Wycliffe's electric guitar playing is a joy and there is superb backing from the rhythm section of drummer Ben Cullingworth and double bassist James Swinnerton.

It has to be said, though, that Martin Kaye as Jerry Lee is the show-stealer. Manchester-born Martin is in his fifth year with the show, having toured the US with it and starred in its Las Vegas residency. He's simply superb as the high-energy, wise-cracking Jerry Lee – and, boy, can he play the piano! Great Balls of Fire and Chuck Berry's Brown Eyed Handsome Man nearly raised the Hippodrome roof! If you want a rock 'n' roll party, this is the place to be.

Million Dollar Quartet, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Phillips, Sun Records, Birmingham Hippodrome, Theatre Review
Party: Million Dollar Quartet


Million Dollar Quartet 2016/ 17 UK tour dates:

Until Oct 29: Birmingham Hippodrome;
Oct 31 – Nov 5: Edinburgh Festival Theatre;
Nov 7 – Nov 12: Grand Theatre, Leeds;
Nov 14 – Nov 19: King's Theatre, Glasgow;
Nov 22 – Nov 26: Southampton Mayflower;
Nov 28 – Dec 3: Bristol Hippodrome;
Dec 17 – Jan 2: Royal Festival Hall London;
Feb 6 – Feb 11: Richmond Theatre;
Feb 13 – Feb 18: Liverpool Empire;
Feb 20 – Feb 25: Bord Gαis Energy Theatre;
Feb 28 – Mar 4: Canterbury Marlowe;
Mar 6 – Mar 18: Theatre Royal, Newcastle;
Mar 13 – Mar 18: Southend Cliffs Pavilion;
Mar 28 – Apr 1: New Victoria Theatre, Woking;
Apr 3 – Apr 8: Marina Theatre Lowestoft;
Apr 10 – Apr 15: Brighton Theatre Royal;
Apr 18 – Apr 22: Royal & Derngate, Northampton;
Apr 25 – Apr 29: Belfast Grand Opera House;
May 2 – May 6: Cardiff New Theatre;
May 8 – May 13: Venue Cymru, Llandudno;
May 15 – May 20: Manchester Palace Theatre;
May 22 – May 27: Norwich Theatre Royal;
May 30 – June 3: Shrewsbury Theatre Severn.
Help us improve  Click here if you liked this article  101
Share: email  facebook  twitter
Why? Great musical recreating historic musical event
When: At Birmingham Hippodrome till Oct 29, 2016, then touring till Jun 3, 2017
Phone: 0844 338 5000
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome, then touring
Cost: From £14 plus fees
Your Comment
Sounds like a really interesting show for fans of rock n roll music too.
by Alison Brinkworth (score: 2|270) 774 days ago
Articles from other cities
Foodi Photoh Classie
Top Events
Popular Articles
Categories
Lists
Questions