Its about the music!
The exhilarating, crowd pleasing presentation at The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina was and will continue to be, absolutely, and wonderfully about the music. “Million Dollar Quartet,” the Tony Award winning, Broadway Musical, is loaded with buoyant, exuberance. The performances by a fresh, very professional and energetic cast is spot on, and takes us beyond Juke Box Musical, with a kind of sweet, poignant backstory.
Nevertheless, I do agree…the music gets top billing.
That said, I have to tell you that the book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, with charismatic direction by Rusell Treyz, adds engaging elements to the impressive performances by John Countryman, as Jerry Lee Lewis, Luke Darnell as Carl Perkins, Christopher Fordinal as Elvis Presley, and Jeremy Sevelovitz as Johnny Cash. Their performances were right on the mark. Each of the leads presented everything possible about their famous characters…hips swivelled, low notes hit, keyboards played with various body parts. One was kind of pouty, and the other, unrelentingly philosophical and visionary… all without limiting their performances to an impersonation of their famous characters.
Collin Patrick Ryan, as Sam Philips, a recording producer of the early 50’s was the most engaging storyteller. His sensitive performance, sets the story, the scenes and prepares us for the outcomes. He connects the nuanced story dots, towards our complete enjoyment and appreciation of the stellar performances of the Quartet.
The story begins on December 4, 1956, when at a kind of tumble down recording destination, Sun Studio, in Memphis Tennessee, rock ‘n roll history was made. Actually, kind of impromptu, a set of circumstances brought together the legendary performing artists. What followed was a lot of singing, some laughter and joking, whining and complaining and happily for all of us, some serious guitar strumming, bass playing, drumming, and piano thrashing…historically accurate accounts discuss that there were a lot of incredible gospel and country songs, too, at that amazing rock and roll jam session.
Clearly, there was a “whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on” opening night in the Elizabeth Wallace Theater. The most enjoyable rock n’ roll playlist rolled on through the night. Look forward with anticipation to more than 20 songs, among them “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Hound Dog,” “See You Later Alligator,” “I Hear You Knockin’,” “Walk the Line,” and “Great Balls of Fire.” And enjoy “Peace in the Valley,” and “Down by the Riverside,” performed in astonishing harmony.
One of the delights of the evening, was seeing these legendary performers portrayed in their earlier years… long before they became famous and assured. They were young, southern and poor, self-conscious, and not really prepared for the new life they were leading…and not at all certain where they should go next. The cast portrays such a feeling of mutual appreciation and admiration, as they count on Phillips and each other for advice, respect and understanding. Through the evening, the foursome exchange songs, stories and sentiment in a delightful 1956 style and setting. The evening moves, by turns from wild guitar strumming, to soft, kind of poignant, soul searching musical moments in time. The contrasts were dramatic and the performances, often show-stopping.
At the end of the evening, the cast and the audience come together. All on our feet we join in a kind of collective encore as the Million Dollar Quartet arrives on the stage in flashy, glimmering tuxedos of purple, green, blue and gold.
Still about the music!
Million Dollar Quartet runs from June 21-July 30 Tickets for the Arts Center’s production may be purchased at the Box Office (843-842-2787) and online at www.tickets.artshhi.com