NY1 Theater Review: "Million Dollar Quartet"
The music of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis is heating up the new Broadway musical "Million Dollar Quartet." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
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The problem with jukebox musicals is that the songs and the story attempting to tie them together often fall flat, feeling forced and downright dissonant. The good ones make for sweet harmony, and that is most certainly the case with the resounding "Million Dollar Quartet."
On December 4, 1956, a spontaneous jam session turned into a once-in-a-lifetime event. Four future rock legends found themselves together in a recording studio and laid down nearly four dozen tracks.
The setting was Sun Records in Memphis, where Sam Phillips, who discovered them, was recording with Carl Perkins, who had earlier written a little number called "Blue Suede Shoes." On the piano was 21-year-old Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash was invited over and 21-year-old Elvis Presley stopped by with a girlfriend on his way home for Christmas.
With a little artistic license and a whole lot of talent, audiences are treated to a hit parade from the era, including "Hound Dog" and "I Walk The Line."
Conceived by Floyd Mutrux, who wrote the book with Colin Escott, the musical has just enough of a compelling narrative to keep audiences hooked between numbers. The performers impressively flesh out the roles, revealing the early insecurities of the superstars to come.
Elvis was well on his way, but the disillusionment of early fame prompts him to vow to never to play Vegas again. Such ironies abound in the characterizations and it’s thrilling to see them at such early stages in their careers.
Eddie Clendening has "the King’s" charismatic good looks. Robert Britton Lyons as Carl Perkins is astonishingly gifted on guitar. Lance Guest masters the deep shades that turned Johnny Cash into the incomparable "Man in Black." Levi Kreis does Jerry Lee Lewis as if possessed, and burns up the joint with "Great Balls Of Fire."
Elizabeth Stanley sparks some heat of her own with an infectiously simmering "Fever." As Phillips, Hunter Foster carries the narrative with some fine grace notes of his own.
Musical arranger Chuck Mead does a terrific job converting the raw jam fest into a fuller sound for the big stage and director Eric Schaeffer wisely lets the music do most of the talking in this one. Rock 'n' roll fans will find "Million Dollar Quartet" makes for platinum-grade entertainment.