Whether you call it a jukebox musical or a lavish tribute concert, you have to agree that “Million Dollar Quartet” certainly entertains.
The national tour of this Tony Award winning musical, which opened Tuesday at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, has a songbook with some of the best 1950s rock ‘n roll. And, as announced before the show started, all of it is performed on stage by the cast.
The idea for the musical was inspired by an actual event: the legendary Dec. 4, 1956 am session with Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley. The foursome had gathered in the studio of their mentor, Sam Phillips.
As Sam Phillips, Christopher Ryan Grant holds the dramatic heft of the show. Grant, who was with the Broadway cast, has a long string of theater credits and it shows in his strong, varied and sympathetic portrayal of the Sun Records owner who discovered the talents only to eventually lose them to larger record companies.
But this show is about the music and the excitement of the four music legends, and the performers certainly deliver.
Scott Moreau brings strong vocals to Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and “I Walk the Line.” Although his voice is thin, Cody Slaughter captures the look and unique stylings of Elvis Presley and shows why he was dubbed the Elvis Tribute Artist of the Year.
As Carl Perkins, Lee Ferris excites with his easy stage presence and raw electric guitar power, especially in his rockabilly “Who Do You Love?” and “My Babe.”
But it is Martin Kaye in the role of Jerry Lee Lewis who gives us the whole enchilada. He lets loose in a wild portrayal of that bad boy, wild rocker. He bangs the piano, knocks back the piano bench, jumps on the instrument, knocks out notes with his the heels of his shoes and serves up so much energy that by the time the climax comes, the pent up audience jumps to its feet and starts swaying and singing along to “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”
Of course, the performer in the Jerry Lee Lewis role has the most to work with. In fact, the reason the show can be called “Tony Award” winning is because the original Broadway’s Jerry Lee Lewis, Levi Kreis, won a Tony for best featured actor in a musical.
Although the show’s expositional moments are groan-out-loud bad, Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux’ book brings out some surprising facts about this night and the young artists involved, such as Elvis getting credit for Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes.”
This is a fun, lively show. Tribute or jukebox, fans of this music leave satisfied.
Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
SIDE O’ GRITS: “Million Dollar Quartet” runs through Sunday, Nov. 4, at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, 401 W. Livingston St., Orlando. It performs 8 p.m. Wed., Thurs., Fri. and Saturday; and 2 p.m. Saturday; and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets begin at $41. Call 800-982-2787 or visit www.OrlandoBroadway.com.