We have had many poppy/rocky tribute evenings in the West End in recent years – too many, or so I thought until Tuesday night at the Noel Coward Theatre, where four sparky lads are recreating a night in the lives of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.
The date is December 4, 1956, and the setting is the small studio of Sun Records at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee.
The company is run by a shrewd, friendly music producer called Sam Phillips (Bill Ward). I don’t know if this will mean much to you, but Mr Ward is a ringer for a Tory backbench MP called David Amess. He delivers a thoughtful, encouraging, proudly independent Phillips.
Sun Kings: Robert Britton Lyons (Perkins), Michael Malarkey (Presley) and Derek Hagen (Cash)
Presley is no longer signed to Sun Records, but he has turned up for a reunion with his former colleagues Cash and Perkins and new boy Lee Lewis, a prodigiously talented pianist and major pain in the backside.
“Boy’s startin’ to grow on you, ain’t he, John?’ Perkins says sarcastically to Cash. ‘Yeah,’ replies Cash. ‘Like a tick on a dog.’
All four musicians owe their careers to Phillips. No wonder the man is hailed at the end as ‘the father of rock and roll’.
Killer: Ben Goddard as piano pounder Jerry Lee Lewis
They have a jam session. The songs, including Blue Suede Shoes, Riders In The Sky, See You Later Alligator and Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, are pumped out with amazing verve.
Ben Goddard doesn’t just play Jerry Lee Lewis. He hurls himself into the role – at the same time hammering out notes on the piano like a man with ten rivet-guns for fingers.
His knees and feet keep lifting to the …