The electrifying 2010 Tony Award®-winning Broadway hit, Million Dollar Quartet, which concludes its delightful two-night encore presentation at the Durham Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. tonight, is a real stem-winder — a rocking musical revue based on an actual epic Dec. 4, 1956 jam session in Sun Records studios in Memphis, TN. Ostensibly a recording session for rockabilly king Carl Perkins (1932-98), this Christmastime “hillbilly homecoming” ultimately featured vocals and instrumentals by soon-to-be “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).
Headlining the cast of the 2016 North American Tour of Million Dollar Quartet are Skip Robinson as hip-swiveling music and movie heartthrob Elvis Presley and Evan Buckley Harris as the somberly dressed pioneer country and rock crossover artist Johnny Cash. Robinson and Harris both sound a lot like the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers that they impersonate, but Harris is a little stiff and Robinson lacks that special something that turned Elvis’ live performances into frenzied bacchanals, especially for his young female fans.
Christopher Wren is much better as the cocky Carl Perkins, desperately seeking a follow-up hit to his chart-topper “Blue Suede Shoes.” Wren is not only a fine actor, but also a world-class lead guitarist, capable of bringing an audience to its feet all by himself.
But it is Jason Cohen as Ferriday, LA’s favorite son, incendiary pianist and singer Jerry Lee Lewis, who steals the show whenever he tickles the ivories. His sit-down, stand-up, and jump-around piano pyrotechnics are some kind of wonderful — and worth the price of admission all by themselves.
Justin Droegemueller, subbing for Matthew Scott as Sun Records head honcho and pioneering rock-and-roll producer Sam Phillips, was a little tentative unspooling the narrative thread that ties the night’s events together — and portends far greater things for all parties in the decades to come. But Allison Fund, subbing for Jackey Good as Elvis’ date Dyanne, is a sultry singer who made her lead vocals on “Fever” and “I Hear You Knockin'” sizzle.
Jon Rossi as drummer W.S. “Fluke” Holland and especially Jody Alan Lee as Carl Perkins’ stand-up bass playing brother, Jay, add considerable pizzazz to the proceedings, plus a little comedy during some numbers. They are fantastic!
The 2016 tour’s exuberant musical staging, especially during the moments in which Jerry Lee Lewis takes center stage to upstage his then-more famous musical cohorts, is another feather in the theatrical caps of tour director and choreographer Lauren L. Sobon and tour music supervisor Austin Cook. Scenic designer Derek McLane’s recording-studio set, so skillfully illuminated by lighting designer Russell A. Thompson, also combines with the flamboyant 1950s fashions of costume designer Jane Greenwood to make the second coming of Million Dollar Quartet to DPAC a night to remember.
SECOND OPINION: April 6th Durham, NC Herald-Sun review by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/blogs/on-stage/review-energizing-rock-and-roll-quartet/article_02fb0dae-fc08-11e5-b68a-cba13241cb4f.html and March 24th 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 these articles); and 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. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the April 5th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/04/back-by-popular-demand-million-dollar-quartet-plays-dpac-at-730-p-m-on-april-5th-and-6th/.)
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 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.
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.)