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A CurtainUp London London Review
Million Dollar Quartet

When you are as poor as us, you like any kind of shoes — Carl Perkins author of "Blue Suede shoes"
Million Dollar Quartet
Ben Goddard as Jerry Lee Lewis (Photo: Helen Maybanks)
I suppose London will eventually get the best of Broadway just as Broadway often gets the best of London but not everything makes it across the Atlantic as successfully as Jersey Boys. Since the closure of Buddy which graced the West End for 13 years and is now on a national tour, there is plenty of room for rock 'n' roll.

Million Dollar Quartet is a great show for those who love rock 'n' roll and despite recasting three of the singers and the narrator with British performers, it remains true to the American show . To read the reviews in New York, which I fully endorse, and for the song list go here.

Only American Robert Britton Lyons with his brilliant guitar playing remains as Carl Perkins, the originator of the famous song "Blue Suede Shoes". I share my editor Elyse Sommer's misgivings about the drama of what is actually a tribute concert and agree with her that Million Dollar Quartet is an excellent concert.

The British take overs in the role star Ben Goddard as the impudent youthful upstart, Jerry Lee Lewis. His virtuoso piano playing, including the trick move of sitting on the piano facing away from the keys and playing with his arms behind his back is inspiring! I loved too the deep, rich voice of Derek Hagen as Johnny Cash. He is superb in numbers like "Sixteen Tons", "Folsom Prison Blues" and "Riders in the Sky" which made the hairs on my arms stand up with the depth of his register and the length of the notes! Michael Malarkey as Elvis sounds good and has all the right moves but doesn't look enough like Elvis for my money and this failing is emphasised when the cast freeze to reproduce a black and white photograph of their counterparts from 1956. However the woman in the audience who got to keep "Elvis"'s white scarf was in raptures! Of course few of us here will know what Carl Perkins looked like or indeed Johnny Cash but we'll all know what they sounded like.

Bill Ward, who plays Sam Phillips the founder of Sun Records, has no such issues as no one in the audience has any idea of who he was. The show is slight on biographical detail and we are left with a sense of loss as Sam Phillips sees all but Jerry Lee Lewis slipping away from him as they further their career with other record companies. Francesca Jackson takes over the female role of Dyanne. Her presence is somewhat outside of the main storyline but her solo numbers "Fever" and "I Hear You Knocking" are strong.

A new to the show number "Honey Don't" covered by The Beatles and now with the rights owned by Paul McCartney, is added to the show for London. Million Dollar Quartet isn't in the Jersey Boys league but the final few numbers are played in dazzling technicolor with sparkling, sequinned jackets and exciting gold lighting making for a starry finale. The show may be a copy but the music and the musicians are authentic and play and sing every note themselves.

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Million Dollar Quartet
Book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux
Original Concept and Direction: Floyd Mutrux
Directed by Eric Schaeffer

Starring: Robert Britton Lyons, Derek Hagen, Ben Goddard, Michael Malarkey, Bill ward, Francesca Jackson
With: Gez Gerrard, Adam Riley
Musical Arrangements and Supervision: Chuck Mead
Set Design: Derek McLane
Costume Design: Jane Greenwood
Lighting: Howell Binkley
Sound: Kai Harada
Running time: One hour 40 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 0844 482 5141
Booking to 1st October 2011
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 2nd March 2011 performance at the Noel Coward, St Martin's Lane, London WC2N 4AH (Tube: Leicester Square)

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