There's a "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" at the Palace Theatre. That magic night in December 1956 is recreated when Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley came together for an impromptu jam session. It's no surprise they were dubbed "The MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET!"
The entire show is this chance meeting one day in Memphis at Sun Records years ago. MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET is really more a rock-n-roll concert than a traditional musical. The opening number sets the tone for the evening with the company rocking out "Blue Suede Shoes." Other classic hits on the night's playlist are "Folsom Prison Blues", "Hound Dog"," See You Later Alligator" and of course, "Great Balls of Fire." Not only are these men amazing singers, but they are really gifted musicians! There is no pit--they sing the vocals and they play all the music of these favorites without skipping a beat while personifying the four stars in mannerisms, appearance and vocals.
Ben Goddard is the first we meet as Jerry Lee Lewis, the new kid at Sun Records trying to get signed not only as a solo artist but as a studio musician. He plays and sings with all the intensity, craziness and slapstick of the originAl Lewis. He's forward and a little brash, but there's no argument this boy can play! Arms and legs flying!
James Barry enters the studio as the successful but a bit resentful Carl Perkins. Barry is a master on the guitar playing in true rockabilly style with an underlying gentle arrogance of a star who is losing his status at the studio.
David Elkins is the cool 'man in black' Johnny Cash. His deep, rich tones in "Walk the Line" and "Sixteen Tons" are perhaps the closest to the original singer. Elkins shows Cash as quiet and conflicted as we learn later he's been struggling with how to tell Phillips he's leaving Sun.
And as look-a-likes go, Cody Slaughter channeled the King! Slaughter shows the humility and slow, Southern style of a young Elvis Presley while unleashing those twirling hips when he steps to the mic. Slaughter never forgets to keep the unassuming nature of Presley even though he is returning from making movies in Hollywood.
Of course Presley always had a girl on his arm and in true Presley fashion- Dyanne played by Kelly Lamont is in town with him. Lamont gets to belt out a couple of numbers but is mostly just window dressing.
Million Dolllar Quartet is narrated by Sam Phillips played by Vince Nappo. He's a likeable producer who launched Sun Records with a natural gift for hearing success. He pulled something out of these stars that made them expose their soul in their music. As each artist enters the studio, he is introduced with Phillips flashing back; the action is suspended for just a moment when the quick anecdote of their first meeting is sweetly remembered. There is storytelling sprinkled between the classic 50s tunes throughout the show. For example, we learn that Phillips' dedication to getting his artists played on the air almost bankrupted the studio and he regrettably sold Presley's contract to RCA for $40,000 to save it. But the stories are only background to the music these boys made!
The story ends but then sequin jackets are lowered from the sky for each of the stars and the encore begins and they really rock the house. They get the audience on its feet and the theatre comes alive with dancing and singing in the seats. Slaughter even gives a scarf away in true Elvis style.
So whether you love the rockin' classics or want to hear the beautiful harmony of "Peace in the Valley" and "Down by the Riverside" by these four greats, MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET takes you back to that studio session and lets you be a part of a little slice of music history.