Review: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET Showcases a Stellar Cast at Cortland Repertory Theatre

Photos: First Look At The Cast of FOOTLOOSE At Fort Salem Theater
The company of Cortland Repertory Theatre's production of
Million Dollar Quartet. Photo courtesy of the production.

Cortland Repertory Theatre is now entertaining audiences at the picturesque Little York Pavilion in Preble, New York with the highly entertaining Tony-nominated jukebox musical Million Dollar Quartet. Featuring the classic tunes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux's (book) musical is inspired by the night when Elvis Presley (Noah Jermain), Johnny Cash (Colin Barkell), Jerry Lee Lewis (Gavin Rohrer), and Carl Perkins (Todd Meredith) made history with their legendary jam and recording session on December 4, 1956 at the famous Sun Records studio in Memphis. Narrator Sam Phillips (Bobby Becher), founder of Sun Records and legendary producer, recalls that historic and magical evening when these musicians jammed out to their hits and he had a "Million Dollar Quartet" on his hands for their only performance in the one-room studio.

The stellar cast under the impressive direction of Todd Meredith and Kerby Thompson brings these legendary musicians to life with their spot-on, charming performances. The performance brings "a whole lotta shakin'" as the actors and musicians bring the house down with musical number after musical number.

Noah Jermain as "The King of Rock n' Roll" Elvis Presley shows off in numbers such as "Hound Dog" "Long Tall Sally," and "Memories are Made of This." He also delivers a very memorable performance of "That's All Right." Jermain's performance includes Elvis Presley's legendary moves to boot.

Colin Barkell brings "The Man in Black" Johnny Cash to life with his standout and spotlight stealing take on "Folsom Prison Blues," "Sixteen Tons," and "Ghost Riders in the Sky." Barkell's rendition of "Walk the Line" is absolute perfection and a favorite of the evening. From his facial expressions and guitar playing, to hitting those legendary low notes that Cash is known for, Barkell is Cash personified. His performance certainly takes center stage thanks to his deep, emotional, and mysterious vocal skills.

Gavin Rohrer steals the show with his expressions, perfect line delivery, vocals, moves, and high energy as the charismatic and lively Jerry Lee Lewis. He has the voice, the spunk, the charm, and the piano moves that instantly allow him to become an audience favorite. Rohrer is one of those actors that you don't want to take your eyes off because you might miss something hilarious as he plays off every actor on stage. He bangs out the notes on the piano with such energetic confidence it is as if Jerry Lee Lewis himself was on stage. He shows off in numbers such as "Real Wild Child," "Brown Eyed Handsome Man," "Great Balls of Fire," and his killer finale of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On."

Todd Meredith delivers a memorable and impressive performance as Carl Perkins, the original singer of "Blue Suede Shoes." Meredith's guitar skills, vocals, and acting chops make his performance a highlight of the evening. His rendition of numbers such as "Matchbox," "Who Do You Love," "My Babe," "Party," and "See You Later Alligator" are most memorable.

Emily Seibert brings a lively, sultry, and confident female voice to the show as Dyanne, a young singer dating Elvis. She delivers a sultry and jazzy rendition of "Fever" and a stellar rendition of "I Hear You Knocking" that shows off her powerful pipes.

As Sam Phillips, Bobby Becher, likewise, delivers a very emotional and powerful performance as he tells the story of that one magical evening where these legends all performed together under one roof.

The four actors portraying these musicians are great on their own, but the true magical moment happens when the four sing "Down By the Riverside" together. It's breathtaking. These four voices coming together sends chills.

The production benefits greatly from Todd Meredith's fabulous musical direction and the performances of the two onstage instrumentalists. Nathan Yates Douglass, as Brother Jay on Bass, makes an impression with his enthusiastic performance and shows off some scene-stealing moves. Michael Lucchetti, as Fluke on drums, also entertains. The instrumentalists are without a doubt having a blast.

The artistic elements of this show come together beautifully to recreate that historic night at the studio a few weeks before Christmas. Caitlynn Barrett's scenic design transforms the playing space and allows the music and performers to take center stage. Colin Bradley Meyer's costumes capture the music legends' individual styles while Eric Behnke's lighting enhances the power and emotion of each musical number. Seth Esa Sengal's sound design is spot on as well.

Million Dollar Quartet is one of those musicals that is a definite must-see and this production at Cortland Repertory Theatre is no exception. The music, the history, the tribute to these legendary musicians is entertaining. It is the perfect end of summer treat so don't miss your chance to see this stellar cast, hear some amazing classic hits, and see a well-directed musical with so much heart.

Running time: Two hours with one fifteen-minute intermission.

Million Dollar Quartet runs through September 13, 2019 at the Cortland Repertory theatre located at the Little York Pavilion in Preble, New York. For tickets and information call the box office at 800.427.6160 or click here.

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