“That night they made rock n’ roll history.” The touring production of Million Dollar Quartet presents the time that Jerry Lee Lewis(Martin Kaye), Carl Perkins(Lee Ferris), Elvis Presley(Cody Slaughter), and Johnny Cash(Derek Keeling) were brought together one night and were recorded by Sam Philips(Scott Moreau) on December 4th, 1956. I have been rocked to my core. Before they became the legends they are today, they were men just starting out, having fun, and trying to survive off of the notes they painted into music. Throughout the play, Philips tries to bring Elvis and Cash back to his record company with new contracts so that his company, Sun Records, can make a comeback. The evening soon fills with music, drama, and brotherly love as these men go down in history making music together on this one sacred night.
Flaming notes danced over the audience in a brilliant display of talent and vigor. Jerry Lee Lewis(Kaye) danced on his piano during “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” He was the trickster that spit out jokes like chewing tobacco. Johnny Cash(Keeling) had a voice deeper than the ocean and smoother than velvet. He grabbed the audiences’ hearts during “Folsom Prison Blues” and danced them around with his guitar. With pointed feet and the classic leg trick, Slaughter portrayed Elvis splendidly, making sure to keep his “Hound Dog” accent. Elvis brought in Dyanne(Kelly Lamont) who killed the audience with her performance of “Fever.” She strutted around in a tight pink dress and played hearts with her tantalizing old-time-radio voice. During the beginning of the performance, Sam Philips(Moreau) seemed to be stumbling over his lines, but quickly picked back up and showed his willingness to earn money and make stars. His anger and disappointment felt real when Cash and Elvis turned him down after asking them to sign new contracts. The voices of the actors molded together into a coral masterpiece, and left me wanting more.
The technical pieces were sometimes not as flattering. The lights were strong colors that sometimes distracted from the performance, like the dark red light that poured down on Jerry Lee(Kaye) during “Great Balls of Fire.” However, at other times the spotlight helped the audience to focus on the person singing or Philips(Moreau) when he was describing his plans for the night/keeping the plot-train rolling. The set for the studio had intricate molding, making me disbelieve that it was once an automobile shop, yet it complimented the rustic backdrop of the city’s grimy bricks. It was easy to tell when there were flashbacks for a blue tone was used consistently. A notable photo came down near the end of the musical after being introduced by strobe lights and the sound of an old fashioned camera. The musical quickly turned into a concert when Cash, Lewis, Perkins, and Presley were given sequined jackets. Giant lights behind them set the tone and brought viewers out of their seats, and offering claps spreading like wild fire. The theatre was alive.
Million Dollar Quartet made rock n’ roll history in 1956, and almost half a century later stays alive and still keeps the legends going. Through brilliant vocals, instruments, and shear talent, this musical is a must see this season. Something sparked to life that night, and that flame continues to burn.