Photo by Dusk Devi Vision
Sons of Sun
by Kieran Carroll
Original Idea by John Kennedy
Sydney Opera House
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
Before Rock ’n’ Roll there was Rockabilly, and white and black music were segregated.
Then, in 1950 came Samuel Cornelius Phillips and Sun Records that introduced Howlin’ Wolf to white audiences and promoted Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison to the world.
Sons of Sun is the brainchild of Australian musician John Kennedy who started the idea as a CD. Looking for leverage, Kennedy decided to turn it into a stage show. He commissioned playwright Kieran Carroll to write the script and the production premiered five years ago.
Phillips and his business partner, the barely heard-of Marion Keisker, struggled while the studio gained credibility and traction. They continued to experience financial issues until Sun sold Elvis Presley’s contract to RCA for $35,000.
The six-person cast of Sons of Sun punches well above its weight.
Ben Maclaine plays the narrator and other male characters, Victoria Beck is Marion Keisker and two other female roles, and Matt Charleston is pivotally strong as the young Sam Phillips.
The main focus, however, is on Musical Director/singer/rhythm guitarist John Kennedy, Paul Scott on bass and Murray Cook on lead guitar. They are all brilliant musicians.
The trio manages to cover 35 songs that include That’s All Right, Folsom Prison Blues, Heartbreak Hotel, I Walk The Line, Tiger Man and Blue Suede Shoes, and they manage to do it without drums, and more amazingly, they perform Jerry Lee Lewis’ Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On and Great Balls of Fire without a piano.
Kennedy doesn’t try to impersonate the singers portrayed, preferring to rely on his powerful musicianship and voice.
Is Sons of Sun musical theatre? Is it a play with music? Is it a concert in which the songs are connected by narration?
However you describe it, this biographical and musical account of the most significant era of music in the past two hundred years is hugely entertaining.
Hopefully you’re reading this on the day of posting, Saturday November 4 because, despite the massively favourable audience response, the only scheduled performance is tonight at the Sydney Opera House.
This is a show that’s too entertaining and significant to discontinue, so keep on the lookout for Sons of Sun reappearing at a venue near you.