MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET is a jukebox musical that uses the recording of an impromptu jam session that involved Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash as its basis. The recording was discovered in the vaults at the Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee in 1981. The recording itself was made on December 4, 1956. This session is considered a seminal moment in rock and roll. The musical opened on Broadway in 2010, after several tryouts and regional productions, and spawned a 2011 West End production. It uses 23 songs, not all of which are from the Sun Records catalog.
The script, by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escot, is lean and in trying to concoct a backstory for this recording, things happen very quickly and coincidentally. The script is undeniably slick and calculated to put the music front and center, as it should be. The current production, now playing at the Georgetown Palace, has several things going for it; not the least of which is Director / Music Director / Set Designer Lannie Hilbolt. Hilbolt's set is perfect, down to the offstage smoking area that is highly effective and plays to the historic architecture of the venue. It really helps anchor the time period. Hilbolt keeps the tempo going and the whole production is nicely slick in the way the better jukebox musicals are. A nod, as well, to properties manager Rebecca McPherson for the great touch of a working reel-to-reel tape recorder in the audio booth.
Faith Castaneda's lighting design is excellent with some great gobo work that works to set locales for concert sections and the costumes by Barbara Sperberg are nice for the period; however, the wedding rings distracted me when a character should (or shouldn't) be wearing one.
Some performers were more successful at imitating or suggestion than other, but everyone does a dynamite job with the music. Nathan Daniel Ford as Johnny Cash didn't quite evoke the outlaw quality that Cash projected during this period in Nashville. Daniel Ponce does a great job capturing Elvis Presley 's movement and energy. He gets vocally closest to Elvis on the slow songs. Rick Smith is superb as Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records. He is dynamic and drives the whole show with the aplomb of a pro. It is Austin Kimble, however, as Jerry Lee Lewis whose performance is a revelation. Kimble is astonishing in that he seems to be channeling Jerry Lee Lewis. Kimble even captures the insane physicality of the piano playing style of Lewis. Kimble has the singer's vocal and physical tics down so pat that he inhabits the character. Expect this performance to be on more than one list at award time.
While Chris Tondre is a great guitar player and has serious rock and roll singing chops, he is unfortunately miscast as Carl Perkins. Emma Thoeni does a nice job as Dyanne, Elvis's date. Kudos to Logan Thoeni and Harrell Williams who handle bass and percussion for the evening as Brother Jay and Fluke.
MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET sounds and looks great and does a great job of engaging the audience with the tale of what might have happened during one of the most important recording sessions of the rock and roll era. While it does play fast and loose with these recordings historically, the story is fascinating. When these performers succeed at emulating these legends of rock and roll, the result is magical.
MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escot
Running Time: Two Hours and Ten Minutes, including intermission
MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET produced by Georgetown Palace Theatre (810 South Austin Avenue, Georgetown, TX, 78626).
Fridays-Sundays, August 31 - September 30, 2018 @ 7:30 pm
Seniors (55+) / Military / Students-$29
Children (13 & younger) $15
For reservations Call (512) 869-7469.
*Standard and Premium Flex Passes can be used for this Show.
*$1 ticketing fee will be added per ticket at checkout.
**Student Rush Tickets $18 at the door with student ID