BWW Road-Trip Review: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at Peach State Summer Theatre
It's hot in Valdosta! And that's not just the heat from the Georgia sun in June we're feeling. It's the heat emanating from the Peach State Summer Theatre's production of Million Dollar Quartet. The musical revue, playing this summer in repertory with Disney's Newsies and Hello, Dolly!, recreates the legendary jam session at Sun Records, a session that marks the only time that rock and roll giants Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash were ever assembled in the same room. The tuner is admittedly little more than an excuse to play a catalogue of some of the most popular rock and roll songs of all time, but when music sounds as good as it does here, that's alright. That's alright!
The 2006 jukebox musical, written by Floyd Mutrix and Colin Escott, dramatizes the evening of December 4, 1956 when Perkins, Cash, Presley, and Lewis recorded a jam album in the Sun Records studio. Interwoven with the present action of the jam session are record producer Sam Philips' remembrances of the earlier days as the young performers first came to Sun Records with little more than lofty dreams.
Peach State Summer Theatre's production, under the direction of a capable Hank Rion, is incredibly well-sung. All four of the rock and roll icons are well-suited for their roles, and each of them effectively captures the spirit of his historical performer. Of particular note in this talented group are Ethan Ray Parker in the role of Jerry Lee Lewis and Michael Bradley in the role of Elvis Presley. Ethan Ray Parker as Lewis is a wonder. He plays the piano like it's a part of his body. He plays it backwards. He plays it upside-down. He plays it with his feet. His piano antics alone are worth the road trip to Valdosta, but in addition to his incredible talent on the piano, he also ably embodies his character. He is, at once, shocking and lovable, humorous and abrasive. In short, he's got everything one needs to play this challenging role. Michael Bradley, in his impressive turn as Elvis Presley, is also a virtuoso. He captures the quiet, unassuming charm of Elvis and skillfully showcases the high-energy physicality associated with Elvis's musical style. And when he opens his mouth to sing, it's like being in an intimate room with the King. His full-bodied, buttery voice is pure music magic.
Also worthy of note is Quinn Tierney Vaira's turn as Dyanne, Presley's girlfriend. Vaira lights up the stage in several solo numbers. Her voice is soulful and rich, and her dancing, provocative and sexy, provides a nice juxtaposition with the decidedly testosterone-y male jam band that makes the space feel a little too small to hold its performers comfortably.
With the help of the nimble studio musicians, the talented cast takes the audience through nearly two dozen bona fide rock and roll hits, including rowdy hits like "Hound Dog," "Great Balls of Fire," and "Who Do You Love?" In other words, there's a whole lotta shakin' going on at Peach State Summer Theatre, making it the perfect road-trip theatre destination this summer.
Million Dollar Quartet runs through July 14 at the Fine Arts Building at Valdosta State University.
For tickets and info, visit https://www.valdosta.edu/colleges/arts/communication-arts/psst/.