Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Review: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at SCR

Review: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at SCR

Four Superstars Wander Into a Room and Make a Joyful Noise

South Coast Repertory presents the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet at the Mission San Juan Capistrano under the stars as part of its new Outside SCR program, and the quality production recalls the good, old days of Summer Stock. SCR has collected a talented cast and put on an enchanting evening.

Based on a true story, on December 4, 1956, Sam Phillips (Corey Jones), owner of Sun Records, holds a jazz session with his artists, past and present. Some are fresh off the bus, like a spoiled wild child named Jerry Lee Lewis (Billy Rude). Two are breaking away to future stardom - Johnny Cash (Chris Clark) and Carl Perkins (Armando Gutierrez) - and one prodigal son, is just dropping by between star gigs and major motion pictures - Elvis Presley (Rustin Cole Sailors). The Four Singers taunt each other, especially the bratty Jerry Lee, but when harmonizing together, they create a renowned recording for the ages.

It's not surprising that Million Dollar Quartet lasted in Las Vegas for three years at the Harrah's Casino Hotel - the musical is filled with familiar, crowd-pleasing mid-'50s hits and has a barebones script, requiring zero thinking from the audience. The Phillips role is one line of exposition after another. Though the script by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux drums up a bit of drama in the end, most of the story is an excuse to play some of the best rock-n-roll classics of the mid-20th century: "Hound Dog," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Folsom Prison Blues," and "Great Balls of Fire," amongst others. With 23 songs, Million Dollar Quartet is wall-to-wall hits.

Most of the actors don't look like their characters, but each has a rich voice and they, along with Michelle Lauto as Elvis's girl, sound amazing together. The play does tip towards one performance - it's no surprise that the original Jerry Lee Lewis, Levi Kreis, won the play's only Tony award for acting - it's a stage-hogging role. Rude commands the stage every moment, whether nimbly leaping on the piano or using his feet and tush to play the 88 keys. He finds that balance between Lewis's bad boy and a dazzling presence. Rude appears to be bursting out of his body, like an unstable atomic bomb ready to explode. His voice is volcanic, and his piano skills are extraordinary. All four actors play their instruments well and portray that undeniable presence that made their characters natural stars.

More of a revue than an actual show, Million Dollar Quartet is a full sojourn to the early days of rock-n-roll, when something as G-rated as Elvis's pelvic rotations would have adults in a tizzy and teenagers fainting in the aisles. The actors return some of the danger to those quaint nostalgic tunes.

Photo by Jenny Graham/SCR.

TodayTix


From This Author - Jonas Schwartz-Owen


Review: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at SCRReview: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at SCR
August 10, 2022

South Coast Repertory presents the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet at the Mission San Juan Capistrano under the stars as part of its new Outside SCR program, and the quality production recalls the good, old days of Summer Stock. SCR has collected a talented cast and put on an enchanting evening.

Review: MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL at Pantages TheatreReview: MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL at Pantages Theatre
July 22, 2022

There have been jukebox musicals for decades, but never has a jukebox been so overstuffed that the 45s came spiraling out of the cabinet, spinning off the stage to decapitate the audience. This Tony-winning musical extravaganza is completely ridiculous and utterly intoxicating. It pounds you into submission, and before you know it, you're having a marvelous time.

BWW Review: A PUBLIC READING OF AN UNPRODUCED SCREENPLAY ABOUT THE DEATH OF WALT DISNEY at Odyssey TheatreBWW Review: A PUBLIC READING OF AN UNPRODUCED SCREENPLAY ABOUT THE DEATH OF WALT DISNEY at Odyssey Theatre
April 6, 2022

Lucas Hnath is an ambitious playwright. He turned his mother's harrowing recollections of being abducted in the '90s into a riveting, intimate one-woman tale, Dana H, where the actress lip-syncs to the recording that his mother had made. Despite such legends as Harold Prince, Betty Comden and Adolph Green flopping with a sequel to Ibsen's A Doll's House, he soldiered on with A Doll's House, Part 2, creating a funny and absorbing examination of 19th Century gender wars. Now, he examines the life of Walt Disney in A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney. And though Hnath appears to have a focused vision, this time his deliberate touch distances the character from the audience and leaves this reviewer nonplussed.

BWW Review: ANYTHING GOES Starring Sutton Foster Hits the Big ScreenBWW Review: ANYTHING GOES Starring Sutton Foster Hits the Big Screen
March 23, 2022

The buzz on the internet about Sutton Foster playing Marian the Librarian in the latest Music Man revival was polarizing to say the least, but NO ONE can claim that Sutton Foster wasn't born to play Reno Sweeney in the classic Cole Porter musical farce, Anything Goes. Foster won a Tony playing the role on Broadway in 2011, and in 2021, returned to the role at the Barbican Theatre in London, belting out standards like the title number, 'I Get A Kick Out Of You', and the famous list song, 'You're The Top'. Trafalgar Entertainment and Stage2view filmed the cast during the London run and will now air the presentation in American movie theaters for two nights.

BWW Review: THE LEHMAN TRILOGY at Ahmanson TheatreBWW Review: THE LEHMAN TRILOGY at Ahmanson Theatre
March 10, 2022

Three men stand on a stage for over three hours, trekking through 150 years of history in The Lehman Trilogy and it's the most invigorating evening imaginable. Directed by Sam Mendes and written by Stefano Massini—and adapted by National Theatre dramaturg Ben Power -- the play is a remarkable journey of three immigrant brothers from Bavaria, who travel to America to start a small business that evolves into the money-making machine known as Lehman Bros.