Done in one-act lasting about 90 minutes, plus a post-production mini concert replete with a different set and colorful costumes, “Million Dollar Quartet” is the story of Sam Phillips, the founder of the legendary Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, and the artists that he helped make famous early in their careers.
The show is loosely based on an actual event that occurred in the small recording studios of Sun Records on December 4th, 1956. There are reports and published accounts of the session that vary a little from what is portrayed in “Million Dollar Quarter,” but the essence of the evening is essentially intact, and most importantly, so is the music. The book of “Million Dollar Quartet” deals with where each of the artists were in their careers at the time, including a 21-year-old Elvis Presley whose life’s work was already becoming the stuff of legends. Elvis was accompanied by his then girl friend Dyanne, a would-be singer played in this cast by Kelly Lamont. In actuality, the woman who came with Elvis that night was named Marilyn Evans. Elvis was played on opening night at The Fox by Cody Slaughter.
Sam Phillips, played by Vince Nappo on opening night, narrates the story, emphasizing how his business relationships with Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis affected and molded all their careers. While there are understudies for the principal roles in “Million Dollar Quartet,” the program also shows that the roles of Elvis and Sam Phillips are regularly rotated between two different actors.
As the show opens, there is a full-tilt rendition of “Blue Suede Shoes” done by the cast that gives a taste of the some 23 musical numbers in the production you are about to enjoy. Johnny Cash is played David Elkins; Carl Perkins is played by James Barry and a youthful Jerry Lee Lewis by Ben Goddard. We have all seen tribute bands and performers for lots of rock n’ roll legends, but this company would put them all to shame. The resemblance in sound and sight is near perfect.
There is a nice staging touch at the very end of the show that lends great credibility to the entire evening. “Million Dollar Quartet” is a big beat rock n’ roll happening. 4 stars for the 4 guys who gave us the music of our lives. Rock on. Timeless.