Million Dollar Quartet
Million Dollar Quartet – Theater Review
Join Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash at a legendary 1956 jam session at Sun Records in Memphis.
Million Dollar Quartet tells the true story Sam Phillips at Sun Records in Memphis in 1956 brought together Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley, and they all jammed together for several hours. I actually have a copy of the bootleg tape that before it was even released, so clearly, I’m a fan. There are 23 numbers, everything from Blue Suede Shoes to A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On, I Walked the Line, all your favorites from Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley. There’s several problems. The strengths are their performances, which are really uniformly good. Everybody’s criticism focuses on Carl Perkins, who is Robert Britain Lyons. But to a certain extent, Carl Perkins was the one who was probably the least famous because he was the least charismatic, he was not the performer that the other three were. But the musicians are terrific, they sound like our idols, they look like our idols. The story is really a thin one in that this was a time where Carl Perkins’ career was tanking and Jerry Lee Lewis was brand new and just starting out. Johnny Cash was deserting Sam Phillips, and Elvis had already been sold to CBS Records because Sam needed the money to continue his business. The several mis-queues in the play are that there’s a mysterious woman who’s name is Dyanne who very likely may have been there, and she sings two songs. And it’s not that she’s not incredibly talented, it’s just that it doesn’t add anything, and it slows things down a bit. So I probably would have taken her out because while she’s charming she is not central to the story. The last ten minutes are foot-stomping, hand-clapping, screaming, yelling, bouncing in your seat fun. When the guys really tear into their favorite songs. Elvis does “Hound Dog”, Johnny Cash does “Riders in the Sky”, Carl Perkins does “See You Later, Alligator”, and Jerry Lee Lewis finishes the whole thing off with “Whole Lot of Shaking Going On”. And they put on their glam rags and bring the house down. We could have used a little more of that a little bit earlier, and I don’t know exactly how we would have done it given the thread of the narrative. But these were energetic guys, and maybe if we had seen a little bit more of this during the Sun Records time, then the show would have worked a little bit better. It’s almost fabulous. As it is, it’s very good. Three and a half stars.