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On a nippy November eve, I couldn’t resist the urge to pop along to the Ipswich Regent to catch Million Dollar Quartet on the final stop of its UK tour. The show has seen worldwide success in the West End, Broadway, Las Vegas, Canada and more, and it’s great that its concluded its year long UK tour here.
The story, which has been brought to life by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, focuses on the date of December 4th, 1956; when four star musicians gathered at Sun Records in Memphis, the studios of legendary record producer Sam Phillips (Martin Kemp), for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions ever.
The score features hits from four icons of rock’n’roll: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. With songs such as Blue Suede Shoes, Fever, Hound Dog, That’s All Right, Sixteen Tons, Great Balls of Fire, Walk the Line, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Who Do You Love? and many more. As its not an era of music I’m particularly knowledgeable in, I only knew a handful of the tunes, but fans would know every note I’m sure; and the show gives a great reincarnation of these hits.
The premise of the story is quite simple, it’s factual and entertaining; especially if you’re a fan of those four particular starlets, or the era of rock’n’roll. However, much of the story felt slightly disjointed. It just didn’t seem to flow particularly smoothly, for example I wasn’t sure whether the character of Sam Phillips was supposed to be breaking the fourth wall or not, and sometimes the flow from talking to the audience to being back in the scene just didn’t quite work. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it – I just felt it could do with a little bit of ironing out in order to strengthen the overall show.
The cast features Martin Kemp, star of Spandau Ballet and BBC TV’s Let It Shine judge, as Sam Phillips. Truthfully, it’s not quite as prominent of a part as the poster would lead you to believe, but understandably it pulls fans into the theatre and they’re bound to enjoy his appearance. I have to give credit to Mitchell Baggott for understudying Elvis and doing a great job, and Katie Ray for those amazing vocals. Though the star of the show for me Martin Kaye as Jerry Lee Lewis – his energy, hilarity and all-round fun vibe is what makes the show I feel.
Overall, it’s not going to be the next theatrical masterpiece and in terms of jukebox musicals in particular, I wouldn’t say its the strongest I’ve seen – but if you love 50’s rock ‘n’ roll or music in general, you’re bound to find an appeal. It’s light-hearted fun with a few laughs and some great music to support it – so much so, there were a vast number dancing in the aisles and in their seats by the end. Just get ready to shake if you’ve got tickets booked!