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BWW Review: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at Ogunquit Playhouse

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The Ogunquit Playhouse will be the first regional theater in the country to produce

the Tony Award-winning musical "Million Dollar Quartet," on stage from Aug. 19 to Sept. 19.

The songs of the early rock and roll awakening, still rock and roll in Ogunquit Playhouse's newest production of Million Dollar Quartet.

Million Dollar Quartet opened last weekend to a decently packed house, all of whom were buzzing about the show. Most of the audience had gray or graying hair, but they were each talking about the song list before them. To them, this show meant a lot more than it might to a younger audience. To them, this show is the reason a lot of their lives changed. The night was buzzing like it was an actual rock concert.

Million Dollar Quartet is the story of a small record label, Sun Records, and how it helped to create the burgeoning young talents of Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley. One night in 1956 these four greats actually met and played together at Sun Records. This show documents that night, with an accompanying thin plot line.

The story to Million Dollar Quartet is not in the lines, or predictable segues, it is in the music. It is the music that changed a nation, a generation, and effectively the world. It is the music that provoked cultural shift, thought and progress. The music is the star of the night, and Ogunquit Playhouse does not fail in its delivery.

The show is directed by long time Broadway veteran, Hunter Foster. Foster was in the original cast of Million Dollar Quartet, and must have an intimate knowledge of the show. Similarly, the original Broadway scenic designer, Derek McLane, worked on this production at Ogunquit and it shows.

The cast is filled with men who have such striking resemblances to the men they are playing, it was easy to believe they were their roles.

Robert Britton Lyons plays the role of Carl Perkins, possibly the lesser known of the quartet. However, Lyons voice is spot on with Perkins stylings. He also holds some of the best acting moments in the show. At the moment the show opens, Perkins is not the star he wanted to be. What's more, is he isn't sure of his future. His vulnerability and sadness is readily seen in Lyons portrayal. He is an excellent juxtaposition to some of his counterparts.

The neurotic Jerry Lee Lewis is acted by Nat Zegree. Zegree does a standup job in keeping the energy of Lewis and his mannerisms throughout the show. This is no small task. Sometimes his essences feels a little awkward and jilted, not the confident crazy that Lewis is well known for, but overall he does a really phenomenal job. All of the ladies physically reacted to a lot of his scenes and moments, that if nothing else is testament to his skilled performance.

Scott Moreau plays the darkly indignant Johnny Cash. In the show, Cash is just skyrocketing in his career and on the verge of changing record labels. Moreau's bass fits the iconic sound of Cash perfectly. On many of his songs, the audience could be heard cheering him on in silent awe.

The last of the quartet is filled out by none other than, Elvis. Jacob Rowley fits the bill for elvis in looks and mannerisms. While his voice is somewhat shaky and timid, it somehow fits the early Elvis persona in which this show takes place.

The other main characters in this show include Dyanne, Elvis' girlfriend of the moment, and Sam Phillips played by Jason Loughlin.

Bligh Voth plays Dyanne loveably. She fills out some part singing and has some nice solo moments throughout. She helps the plot along a bit, but her role is mostly to add female counterbalance to the show.

It is the part of Sam Phillips in which the heart of the show lies. He is the owner of Sun Records. In the show, the record label is on a precarious perch. Sam has lost Elvis to RCA and doesn't have much hope of commercial success, unless he can resign Cash to a three year deal. Loughlin does a great job in the group scenes, but it is his quieter moments onstage when he faltered. He seemed timid and uncomfortable opening weekend, something that could be easily fixed throughout the run. Without those small flubs, he did a lovely job of being the everyman role.

Again, the star of the evening is the music. This show packs a punch with each song being better than the last. The audience was mesmerized by the music and the performers as the show progressed. By the end of the night, the entire crowd was on its feet singing, shouting and wailing. It was truly 1956 all over again.

Million Dollar Quartet is the perfect night out for parents grandparents to enjoy the music of their youth. It will bring back all of the feelings and excitement of days gone by. Million Dollar Quartet plays through September 19th at Ogunquit Playhouse.


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From This Author Trevor Worden

Trevor is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He has been involved in the arts since he was a child and (read more...)