It’s that heart pounding, gut-wrenching, mind blowing music you hear. It’s loud and raw, and makes you want to dance. Or it’s soft and honest, reminding you of your hometown. Usually, you’d experience these things at something called a concert—not a Broadway musical. Million Dollar Quartet is jukebox musical that tends to come off as a rockabilly-country-folk concert. The show is set at Sun Records studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley are all brought together by some miracle, and these legends play their classics in this musical set over the course of one day.
I’m usually a not-so-critical critic, and though I’m not here to bash, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Million Dollar Quartet. Maybe it’s my lack of age, or maybe my general dislike for musicals of the jukebox variety. With the exception of the spot-on music, I wasn't wooed. The set was simplistic; perhaps a bit boring due to the fact that the whole show took place in the same recording studio, and the lighting lacked luster.
The music, however, was sensational. Going into the show, I was familiar with all of the songs, and even knew the words to a few. My dad, on the other hand, is a huge Johnny Cash fan, and listened to all of this music growing up. I went with him, knowing he’d enjoy the show. Johnny Cash (played by Derek Keeling) was incredibly accurate. According to my father, Keeling got the “mellow and chill” feel of Cash down pat. Jerry Lee Lewis (Martin Kaye) was a thrill to watch also. With his energetic piano fingers, and unusual hair, he had the whole crowd laughing. Elvis Presley (Cody Slaughter) and Carl Perkins (Lee Ferris) were the less spectacular of the quartet. Elvis seemed a bit off, and Carl Perkins came across a little one-dimensional. Whether this was a director’s choice, I don't know. But Derek Keeling came out on top acting wise. Excepting him, I felt that as actors, these men were a bit mediocre.
The heart of the show lies within the more spiritual, folksongs like “Peace In The Valley” and “Down By The Riverside.” These numbers were a bit more heartwarming, with beautiful harmonies and just simple singing without the ridiculous 50’s dancing. I enjoyed all of Cash’s songs, and looked forward to seeing Lewis’ crazy antics during his. The only female role in the show was the character Dyanne (played by Kelly Lamont). Portraying Presley’s beau, I thought that she was going to be a boring character, thrown in only to add some estrogen amongst all the testosterone, but she proved to be more than that. I enjoyed her songs, “Fever” and “I Hear You Knocking.” They were filled with sass, and certainly had the young Jerry Lee begging for more.
All in all, the musical was fine. The acting wasn't up to par, and the set wasn't awe-inspiring, but the music really made the show. Whether this was a musical that was intentionally like a concert, or if the music just made it that way, I left feeling a bit nostalgic, though underwhelmed by the theatrical elements.