On December 4, 1956 four singers got together and made recording history. That night is the subject of the Broadway Across America musical Million Dollar Quartet, on stage now at the Murat Theatre. Set in the Sun Records recording studio in Memphis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis blend their distinct styles to create something unique. The result is a concert of famous oldies, including everything from gospel to rock and roll.
The cast is incredibly talented. Not only do the four members of the quartet nail the individual singing aspect of the performers they are portraying, they also play their instruments (guitars and piano) amazingly well. They shine on both the rowdy hits, like Party, and the quiet hymns, like Peace in the Valley. Along with rocking performances, the show provides a history lesson. I’d never heard of Carl Perkins and had no idea he wrote and performed Blue Suede Shoes, topping the pop/country/blues charts long before Elvis covered it.
Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records, is the thread that strings the show together. His ability to see the potential in each individual is what helped them on their way to stardom. There are a lot of egos packed into the small studio and Phillips works hard to manage the temperamental talent. His sincerity and hopefulness provide the heart of the show.
When Johnny Cash appears the show takes off. The Man in Black is played by Derek Keeling and even in the midst of so much talent, he manages to take it up a notch. He nails Cash’s trademark bass-baritone and his songs reverberate throughout the hall. Another treat is Cody Slaughter as Elvis. They called him Elvis the Pelvis for a reason. The King’s stage presence, or in this case Slaughter’s, make him a thrill for the audience.
Jerry Lee Lewis (Martin Kaye) has a wild, unrestrained energy. As the youngest in the group he is bursting at the seams with ambition. Lee Ferris plays Carl Perkins, the most frustrated in the group, but with good reason. In Tuesday’s performance, the role of the bassist Jay Perkins was played by the understudy David Sonneborn, who did a wonderful job. There's not a single weak link in the production.
These men ushered in a whole new era of music, proving once and for all that rock and roll was not fad. You can no longer see the originals perform live, but this is the next best thing and it’s not to be missed.
Don't Miss the Show
The show runs until Sunday, Dec. 18 at the Murat Theatre so hurry to get tickets to the show. Tickets can be purchased at Clowes Memorial Hall, The Murat Theatre, by calling (800)-982-2787 or online at www.broadwayacrossamerica.com. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
Photos Courtesy of Broadway Across America