Million Dollar Quartet at The Arts Club
Until July 9th
Four rock legends, one unbelievable jam session.
Playwrights Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux took a real life event and dramatized and reimagined into a hit summer musical. On December 4, 1956, Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records and man who helped create the early rock and roll sound, gathered four of his biggest stars – Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis and let them jam while he recorded it.
They bantered and did new versions of older songs, some gospel and blues standards of the time. It was a warm and friendly gathering of titans just singing and playing songs. Click here to hear a sample of the original album.
In the jukebox musical version of that event they only sing the hit songs of those artists and since guys bantering about singing is not very dramatic they add a little tension between the men about hurt feelings and contract negotiations but really audience only want to hear the songs and see the impersonations.
Erik Fraser Gow plays Elvis and brings a cocky swagger and rich full voice that although not a spot on replication of the King is still rock and rolling.
Jonas Shandel plays the man in black Johnny Cash and sounds and looks great and has the quiet, humble ‘shucks’ quality of the man down so genuine that he almost fades into Ted Roberts set. But when he sings there is so much grave power that he commands the stage.
Kale Penny brings his handsome deadpan charm to the bitter Carl Perkins. Mr. Perkins needs another hit song and is upset the Elvis stole his biggest hit and Mr. Penny channels that into the songs he sings. His need to entertain and be recognized as a rock star makes him light up the stage.
The other reason Carl Perkins is worried about where he stands as a country rock star is because Sam Phillips has a new discovery the piano playing electric fire brand Jerry Lee Lewis. Steven Greenfield is absolutely brilliant as The Killer, jumping and raging and aggressively flirting with Elvis’s girlfriend. You can’t take your eyes off him, there is so much untamed joy in a thrilling performance.
Rounding out the cast is the aforementioned girlfriend and fictionalized character names Dyanne. Lauren Jackson has a fantastic voice and is warm and very pretty. Sadly that is really all that is asked of her in this show.
Graham Coffeng plays Sam Phillips with sly, charisma and acts as our narrator.
Most of the cast plays instruments and Todd Biffard on drums and Mathew J. Baker on Bass rocking out 1950’s style compliment them nicely.
That is a good word for the show. It’s nicely done. The director Bill Millerd and Musical Director Zachary Stevenson delivered a polished and pleasing summer distraction.
Million Dollar Quartet made me bounce in my seat and tap my foot but it never touched my heart. It’s a musical revue of some amazing songs from the early days of rock and roll by a brilliant cast of actors. If you love that era and those singers then you will love Million Dollar Quartet. It is a crowd pleasing, toe-tapping, super fun time.
David C. Jones