Million Dollar Quartet ReviewPublished: Friday, August 26, 2016 By: Mary Keon Source: Westchester Guardian
On Tuesday, December 4, 1956, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis turned up at Sun Studios in Memphis, TN for an impromptu jam session. The recording, produced by Sam Phillips, was dubbed the Million Dollar Quartet, by reporter Bob Johnson, writing the next day for the Memphis Press-Scimitar. MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, now on stage at the Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford, recreates that day, based upon the official Sun Records story.
The book for the show was written by Collin Escott and Floyd Mutrux; with original concept and direction by Floyd Mutrux, “Rockabilly” transformed American music and all four musicians soon became nationally famous. “By December, 1956, Presley had topped the music charts five times and the album charts twice, over the preceding 12 months. His Sept. 9, 1956 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show reportedly pulled 83% of the national audience that night – an estimated 55 million viewers,” according to the show’s production notes. Presley had already moved on to RCA records and though he was a phenomenal success, was not happy there. Accompanied by then girlfriend, Marilyn Evans, he stopped by Sun Studios to talk to Phillips. In his autobiography, Cash asserted that he was the first to arrive that day, as he had something he needed to discuss with Phillips. A recording session was already in progress for Carl, Jay and Clayton Perkins, accompanied by drummer W.S. Holland and pianist Jerry Lee Lewis, who were re-working “Matchbox”. At the urging of the cagey Phillips, Cash and Presley jumped into the recording session while Phillips shrewdly left the tapes running, “for posterity.” If you love Rock and Roll and the musicians who started it all, you must see this show.
John Michael Presney plays Carl Perkins, who wrote Blue Suede Shoes, famously also recorded by Presley, among others. Presney delivers “Matchbox” and “Who Do You Love” well, but blows the roof off with “See You Later, Alligator”.
Sam Weber is cast as Carl’s brother Jay, who plays the bass like an electric guitar –and delivers an amazing performance. I have always felt that Johnny Cash embodied the soul of traditional American music. Sky Seals evokes Johnny Cash effortlessly, with jet black hair, high cheekbones and a voice that is very close to Johnny’s. The show includes “Folsom Prison Blues”, “Sixteen Tons”, ”I Walk the Line” and “Riders in the Sky.” He is a wonderful performer and you will want to hear him singing all of your favorite Johnny Cash hits.
Ari McKay Wilford is Elvis Presley with the swivel hips and slicked back pompadour singing: “Memories are Made of This”, “That’s All Right”, “Long Tall Sally”, and “Hound Dog.” Wilford’s voice is very close in pitch to Presley’s and he is persuasive as this iconic figure, knocking it out of the park with “You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Dog.”
The irrepressible Jerry Lee Lewis is perhaps the most challenging musician to emulate and Dominique Scott delivers a tour-de-force performance, singing, dancing and playing the piano with reckless aplomb throughout the show. The show features early hits “Real Wild Child” and “Great Balls of Fire”.
These actors-musicians have a phenomenal skill set and work together well as an ensemble singing: “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Down By the Riverside”, and “A Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On”. Bligh Voth is engaging as Presley’s girlfriend, the fictitious, Dyanne, who sings “Fever”, joining the quartet to sing “Peace in the Valley” and “Party”.
Jason Loughlin is excellent as Sam Phillips who also narrates the show. Phillips launched Sun records in 1952 and produced 226 singles over 16 years in addition to 71 singles on the sister label, Phillips International. He will be forever remembered as an amazing talent spotter and the man who made Rock and Roll a worldwide phenomenon.
Technical Director Steve Loftus recreates Sun Studios effectively and director Hunter Foster does a good job staging the show for this very talented cast. On stage now through September 11: this is a Smoking Hot ticket! Don’t miss it!