Review: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at New Theatre & Restaurant

A jam session for the ages

By: May. 01, 2023
Review: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at New Theatre & Restaurant

MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET has returned to New Theatre & Restaurant after a five-year absence. For fans of early 1950s Rock N Roll music, finding a great production of the QUARTET is equivalent to stumbling upon the Holy Grail while flashing on their teenage years. MDQ is entertaining.

This is the mostly true story of Sam Phillips' tiny Sun Record company in Memphis Tennessee on one particular day in 1956. Phillips was a 1940s radio DJ who soon discovered his major asset was his ability to recognize and promote developing musical performers. In 1950, Phillips opened a recording studio in Memphis and (shortly after) Sun Records.

Ashley Pankow and Havan Hashemian
Ashley Pankow and Havan Hashemian

Sun Records was in danger of being overwhelmed by bigger companies like RCA and Columbia. The previous year Phillips had been forced to sell the contract of Elvis Presley (Kavan Hashemian), his star attraction, to RCA Records to keep his independent label afloat.

The date is now December 4, 1956. RCA wants to buy Sun Records from Phillips and employ him as a producer. This is probably happening at the urging of Elvis Presley himself. Phillips had discovered Elvis, a truck driver, in previous years.

At this point in his career, Elvis has been hearing advice he doesn't trust from all quarters. Presley wants trusted Sam Phillips to work with him again at RCA. Elvis has returned to Memphis for the purposes of introducing his new girlfriend, Dyanne, to his family and to pressure Sam Phillips. In truth, Dyanne was a nineteen-year-old Las Vegas showgirl named Marilyn Evans, but they were in Memphis to meet Momma Presley and see Phillips.

Sam Phillips values his independence. RCA is pressuring him for an answer today. He is hesitant to sell Sun Records. Elvis will visit the studio this afternoon.

Review: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at New Theatre & Restaurant
Sean McGibbon

Carl Perkins (Jeremy Sevelovitz), his brother Jay (Eric Scott Anthony), and their drummer Fluke (David Sonneborn) have booked the studio in an effort to recover the stroke of musical lightning that had scored them their previous huge hit "Blue Suede Shoes" written by Perkins the previous year.

Phillips suggests they include budding genius piano man Jerry Lee Lewis (Sean McGibbon) to change up Perkins' rockabilly sound. Lewis is obnoxious, but the boy sure can pound a keyboard into submission.

Phillips had scheduled the session so that another of his discoveries, a young Johnny Cash (Scott Moreau), will show up at the studio. Cash's contract is about to run out and Phillips has a three year extension offer in his pocket. Phillips suspects other record labels have been sniffing around Johnny Cash and he plans to pressure the "Man in Black" into signing the extension in front of his friend Perkins.

It is a busy day at Sun Records.

Review: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at New Theatre & Restaurant
Jeremy Sevelovitz, Sean McGibbon,
Havan Hashemian, and Scott Moreau

Phillips had the presence of mind to record the whole thing. The recording is eventually released as an album in 1990, thirteen years after Presley's death in 1977 and some thirty-five years after it was recorded.

Imagine Rock Superstars Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis hanging out together for an impromptu recording session early in their musical careers. And this would be the foundation for one hell of a jam session.

Audiences should get ready for some fun. All of these actors are exceptional musicians. All are returning to the roles they are playing after successful runs in other productions.

These guys together are worth more than a "MILLION DOLLARS," but this New Theater Production gives you value added in the person of Ashley Pankow as Dyanne. She heats up the place with a memorable rendition of "Fever." These folks have put the Rock back in the distant dawn of Rock N Roll.

Audiences will enjoy this slick professional production. The set is excellent, the voices are fine, and the direction by Joe R. Fox III is outstanding.

"MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET" continues at New Theatre Restaurant through July 2. Tickets are available at or by telephone at 913-649- (7469).

Photos courtesy of New Theatre & Restaurant and by Vincent Savage.


MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS is Coming to Theatre in the Park This Month Photo
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS is Coming to Theatre in the Park This Month

The musical 'Meet Me in St. Louis', based on the memorable MGM movie classic starring the legendary Judy Garland, opens at Theatre in the Park on Friday, June 16 through Sunday, June 18.

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Comes to the Starlight Theatre This Month Photo
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Comes to the Starlight Theatre This Month

Following critically acclaimed, sold-out engagements in the UK, the reimagined 50th Anniversary tour of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR will come to Starlight Theatre from June 20-25.

Review: EVIL DEAD THE MUSICAL at Warwick Theatre Photo
Review: EVIL DEAD THE MUSICAL at Warwick Theatre

“Look Who’s Evil Now,” it’s the cast and crew of Padgett Productions EVIL DEAD THE MUSICAL, which opened Friday, June 2 at the Warwick Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri. The splatter zone was sold-out for the opening, and the raucous crowd only added to an exciting hilarious romp at the cabin in the woods, where you can be killed by a tree. Do not ask for whom the Weeping Willow cries, it cries for you.

New Art Installation Revealed at Starlight Theatre as Part of ONE PERCENT FOR ART Program Photo
New Art Installation Revealed at Starlight Theatre as Part of ONE PERCENT FOR ART Program

In 2022, Starlight Theatre and the City of Kansas City, Missouri, One Percent for Art Program worked with Cambridge, Massachusetts, artist Douglas Kornfeld to place a new work of public art on the Starlight Theatre grounds.

From This Author - Alan Portner

Al Portner is regional editor for Broadway World – Kansas City.  He is a retired career journalist and media executive who has written for publication over more than 40 years. Portner has p... (read more about this author)


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