Book by Colin Escott & Floyd Mutrux
Directed by Floyd Mutrux & Eric Schaeffer
Musical Arrangements by Chuck Mead
Produced by Dee Gee Theatricals,
John Cassette Productions,
Northern Lights, Inc
At the Apollo Theatre
The move to the Apollo Theatre gives this terrific show an intimate home with an improved sound while keeping the high energy and spirited musicianship of the cast. I enjoyed this show more than my first time. The show seems more polished and smoother without losing any of its zest. If you’ve seen “Million Dollar Quartet,” go again—it’ll still rock your socks off! The crowd gave it a rousing standing ovation. That happens every performance.
Rockin’ Rollin’ jukebox musical explodes into a fantastic show!
The new musical, “Million Dollar Quartet,” now in its Midwest Premiere at the Goodman Theatre, unfolds as the best jukebox musical that I’ve ever seen. That includes “Jersey Boys,” “All Shook Up” and “Movin’ Out.” What makes “Million Dollar Quartet” so great is a combination of elements: a fantastic songbook performed by outstanding musicians with a factual based storyline in a most energetic and electrifying presentation. This show rocks from start to finish.
Here is the premise: Fact: on December 4, 1956 a twist of fate brought together Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley at Sun Records’ storefront recording studio in Memphis. Sam Phillips (Brian McCaskill) known as ‘the Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and owner of Sun Records discovered each of them. This event became an impromptu jam session that Phillips recorded. This event was the only time the four young legends-to-be united to play music. The results became one of the greatest rock jam sessions of all time. The musicians in this show did justice to the young legends. They were terrific.
Carl Perkins (Rob Lyons)—a wiz on the lead electric guitar, Jerry Lee Lewis (Levi Kreis)—a wild honky tonk pianist, Johnny Cash (Lance Guest)—a country/gospel singer and rhythm guitar player and a young new rock star Elvis Presley (Eddie Clendening) each jammed and sang their hits plus popular tunes of the era including country, gospel and R & B standards. Featuring excellent bass work by Carl’s brother Jay Perkins (Chuck Zayas) and Fluke, the drummer (Billy Shaffer) these six musicians with some vocals from Dyanne (Kelly Lamont), Elvis’ girlfriend, produced 24 early rock tunes.
We hear Carl Perkins nail “Blue Suede Shoes,” his fist hit. Jerry Lee Lewis pounds his piano in “Real Wild Child.” Johnny Cash does a manic version of the traditional “Rock Island Line.” By now, the theatre is jumpin’! Dyanne (the sexy Kelly Lamont) nails the bluesy “Fever” and Elvis (Eddie Clendening) sings “Memories Are Made Of This.” The house soars to “That’s All Right” led by Elvis. The entire group produces some fine harmonies with the traditional “Down By The Riverside.” Each of the legends contribute to each other’s tunes.
The show is narrated by Sam Phillips (Brian McCaskill in a fine performance)—the founder and mentor to all four at Sun Records. The story aptly weaves in and out telling Phillips’ relationship to each young performer. The show is nicely staged giving glimpses into the character of each singer and their visionary mentor Phillips. This fast paced show has an infectious spirit and a freewheeling excitement that thoroughly pleases.
Tunes like “Sixteen Tons” features Johnny Cash; Elvis’ “Long Tall Sally” rocked the house while Elvis croons the religious tune “Peace In The Valley.” As the show reaches its heights we are toe-tapping to our delight when it reaches even higher levels of musical excitement. Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” and the R & B tune “My Baby Left Me,” featuring Elvis almost brought the house down! Johnny Cash’s haunting cowboy song “Ghost Riders” brought me back to my grade school days. The snappy rhythmic “See You Later, Alligator” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’” round out this exuberant and wholly satisfying show.
“Million Dollar Quartet” has a truthful book as well as outstanding arrangements (Chuck Mead) of early classic rock, country and traditional songs of the 1950’s. The real stars of this show are the dynamic music and the sheer musicianship of the six performers. This exhilarating show is a ‘must see’ event. It is pure energy. I’m betting this show will have a long run in Chicago.
At the Apollo Theatre, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL, Call 773-935-6100