The 2016 North American Tour of the 2010 Tony Award®-winning Broadway hit Million Dollar Quartet is back-by-popular-demand at the Durham Performing Arts Center for two high-octane performances — at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5th, and Wednesday, April 6th. Million Dollar Quartet, which first delighted DPAC patrons on Dec. 4-9, 2012, is a jukebox musical based upon an actual event: the Dec. 4, 1956 Sun Records recording session for rockabilly king Carl Perkins (1932-98) in Memphis, TN.
The participation of three other rock-and-roll pioneers — the “King of Rock and Roll” Elvis Presley (1935-77), “The Killer” Jerry Lee Lewis (born 1935), and soon-to-be country-music legend Johnny Cash (1932-2003) — earned this fabulous foursome the title of the “Million Dollar Quartet.” (Any comparable 21st century assemblage of musicians would no doubt be dubbed the “Gazillion Dollar Quartet,” quipped Eric D. Schaeffer, director of show’s 2010 Broadway and 2011 Off-Broadway productions, as well as its 2011-15 national tour, in a 2012 interview with Triangle Review.
Schaeffer added, “We have taken a little theatrical license. We have taken events that happened over an 18-month period and pushed them all into one night, so that we could create a dramatic arc and flesh out the characters…. That night was actually a Carl Perkins recording session. Carl hadn’t had a hit in over a year, not since ‘Blue Suede Shoes.’ So, [Sun Records founder and music producer] Sam Phillips [(1923-2003), who is widely regarded as the “Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll,”] hired Jerry Lee Lewis for the recording session, unbeknownst to Carl. Sam also called Johnny Cash, because Elvis Presley had called to say that he was in town and wanted to pop over and see Sam.
“One by one, they came into the studio,” said Schaeffer. “Carl was running late; but Jerry Lee was already there, ready to go…. Elvis brought a date named Dyanne, who was a singer on The Strip…. She’s still alive, and I think she’s living in Arizona.” (Schaeffer noted that Dyanne got cropped out of the historic photograph of Messrs. Presley, Cash, Lewis, and Perkins, all gathered around the recording studio’s upright piano.)
He added that “Million Dollar Quartet is performed all in one sitting. It’s an hour and 40 minutes long, with no intermission…. Some of the songs are iconic Jerry Lee, Carl, Johnny, and Elvis songs,” Schaeffer said, “and some of the songs are the songs that they sang that night. [Million Dollar Quartet features] a mixture of both. It is more like they were sitting around jamming.”
The Carl Perkins’ hits performed in Million Dollar Quartet include “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Matchbox,” and “Who Do You Love?” Jerry Lee Lewis’ hits include “Real Wild Child,” “Great Balls of Fire,” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” Johnny Cash’s hits include “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Sixteen Tons,” and “Riders in the Sky.” And Elvis Presley’s hits include “Long Tall Sally,” “Peace in the Valley,” and “Hound Dog.”
“Even though it was a Carl Perkins session,” notes Eric Schaeffer, “they didn’t end up recording any Carl Perkins records that got released.” He adds, “Watching Million Dollar Quartet is like being a fly on the wall during a high-energy jam session with these four great icons.”
Conceived and originally directed by Floyd Mutrux, Million Dollar Quartet has a script co-written by Mutrux and Colin Escott. Originally presented in 2006 by the Seaside Music Theater of Daytona Beach, FL, the show was further developed and produced in the fall of 2007 at the Village Theatre in the Seattle suburb of Issaquah, WA. Then, after a limited run at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Million Dollar Quartet moved on Oct. 31, 2008 to Chicago’s Apollo Theater, where it played until Jan. 17, 2016.
Million Dollar Quartet made its Broadway debut, directed by Eric Schaeffer, on April 11, 2010 at the Nederlander Theatre, where it played 34 previews and 489 performances before closing on June 12, 2011. The show starred Eddie Clendening, Lance Guest, Levi Kreis, and Rob Lyons — all making their Broadway debuts — as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, respectively. Hunter Foster and Elizabeth Stanley co-starred as Sam Phillips and Elvis’ date Dyanne.
Nominated for three 2010 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Featured Actor in a Musical, Million Dollar Quartet won the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Levi Kreis as Jerry Lee Lewis). The show was also nominated for the 2010 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical Revue.
Million Dollar Quartet opened Off-Broadway on July 28, 2011 at New World Stages Stage IV, where it played through June 24, 2012.
“Everyone loves the show, because the music is so infectious,” claimed Million Dollar Quartet director Eric Schaeffer, who co-directed the Chicago run of the show with Floyd Mutrux. After Mutrux left Million Dollar Quartet to work on Baby, It’s You — a 2009 jukebox musical featuring the 1960s hits of the Shirelles — Schaeffer directed the Broadway, London, and national tour productions of Million Dollar Quartet.
Schaeffer added, “The audience ends up seeing a snapshot of these four great iconic figures at the beginning of their careers. We all know how they ended up, but we don’t know how they started.”
The cast of the current North American Tour, which kicked off on Oct. 1, 2015 at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Ft. Myers, FL, includes Jason Cohen as Jerry Lee Lewis, Evan Buckley Harris as Johnny Cash, Skip Robinson as Elvis Presley, Christopher Wren as Carl Perkins, Jackey Good as Dyanne, Matthew Scott as Sam Phillips, Jody Alan Lee as bass player Brother Jay Perkins, and Jon Rossi as drummer W.S. “Fluke” Holland. Understudies include (in alphabetical order): Justin Droegemueller (Johnny Cash), Allison Fund (Dyanne), Taylor Gray (Jerry Lee Lewis), Snake Osburn (Carl Perkins), and Creg Sclavi (Elvis Presley).
Original Broadway, Off-Broadway, and 2011-2015 national tour director Eric Schaeffer told Triangle Review in 2012: “Everyone is playing their own instruments and singing and acting. It’s not the easiest show to cast; but who we end up getting for these roles are really fantastic folks,” also at the dawn of their careers.
The producer for the current North American Tour of Million Dollar Quartet is the Prather Entertainment Group of Ft. Myers, FL and Lancaster, PA. The show’s creative team includes executive producer William T. Prather of Prather Touring, director and choreographer Lauren L. Sobon, music supervisor Austin Cook, scenic designer Derek McLane, lighting designer Russell A. Thompson, costume designer Jane Greenwood, sound designer David Temby, and production stage manager David D’Agostino. The show also features musical arrangements and supervision by Chuck Mead.
“Everyone comes to Million Dollar Quartet, expecting a great night of music,” said Eric Schaeffer. “But they also get a great story about Sam Phillips and these four iconic men of rock and roll.”
SECOND OPINION: March 28th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh interview with Evan Buckley Harris, conducted by Jeffrey Kare: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-TV-Evan-Buckley-Harris-of-MILLION-DOLLAR-QUARTET-National-Tour-20160328; and March 24th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/million-dollar-quartet-pianist-jason-cohen-plays-jerry-lee-lewis/article_89d4bfb0-f135-11e5-b355-cbd3b1eb4923.html (Note: You must subscribe to read this article).
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET: Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash at 7:30 p.m. April 5 and 6 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $20-$135. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1551057.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFrJZj4ELdU.
DPAC NEWS RELEASE: http://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/million-dollar-quartet-returns-to-dpac-april-5-6-2016.
TOUR CAST: http://www.milliondollartour.net/cast.asp.
TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: http://www.milliondollartour.net/creative.asp.
Million Dollar Quartet (the group): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Million_Dollar_Quartet (Wikipedia).
Million Dollar Quartet (2006 Florida, 2007 Washington, 2008 Chicago, 2010 Broadway, 2011 West End, and 2011 Off-Broadway musical): http://www.milliondollarquartetlive.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=485498 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/5268 (Off-Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Million_Dollar_Quartet_(musical) (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: http://milliondollarquartetlive.com/img/P5618_DSE_SGE_MDQStudyGuide_8p5x11_4C_Preview.pdf (original Broadway production).
Floyd Mutrux (co-author, original concept, and direction): http://www.milliondollartour.net/creative.asp (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/485504 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/40549 (Off-Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floyd_Mutrux (Wikipedia).
Colin Escott (co-author): http://www.milliondollartour.net/creative.asp (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/485503 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/40548 (Off-Internet Broadway Database).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing email@example.com and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)