When great artists unite, will it be chaos or triumph? Can talent set aside ego for the greater good of art?
Million Dollar Quartet is an exciting, fun, and passionate story based on the 1956 recording session featuring Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley. It is a trip to a time when rock n’ roll was just exploding and the pioneers were breaking all of the rules. It is not just a history of the early days of rock, but also a history of the business of the music. The result is a showcase of the great early hits of these artists. The outstanding live performances are full of joy and with enough energy to light a city. This is a show for all generations: great music is ageless.
On December 4, 1956, Sam Philips (James Loye, who is terrific), the music producer and owner of Sun Studio and Sun Records, invites these four mavericks to play together at his studio. Sam narrates the story of how he found, signed, and developed these talented men. He tells of how he watched them grow in success and fears that they may move on from him. Sam’s visionary role in the beginnings of rock n’ roll is as important as the music itself. He is a proud man and rightly so.
Johnny, Jerry Lee, Carl, and Elvis may seem to be very different from each other in terms of music styles and voices. But they have a lot in common. They were born impoverished in South; some suffered family tragedy; and were deeply influenced by church and the blues. During the recording session, their personalities clearly emerge. Carl is underrated and embittered that other artists are getting credit for his songs, like “Blue Suede Shoes”. Elvis is sexy yet innocent and sweet. Johnny is the seasoned elder, confident and focused on securing his future. Jerry Lee is a rascal, full of youthful arrogance. But the respect these men have for each other is tremendous.
The cast is brilliant: incredibly talented and charismatic. As Johnny Cash, Sky Seals is excellent- he captures the physicality and the voice perfectly. Edward Murphy brings Carl Perkins’ understated genius with depth and empathy. George Krissa is wonderful as the young Elvis, full of eagerness and vigour. Christo Graham almost steals the show as the wild man Jerry Lee Lewis, playing the piano with his entire body. The supporting cast is great with the lovely Sara Diamond as Dyanne, Elvis’ sultry girlfriend, and, in the rhythm section, Evan Stewart and Peter Colantonio are marvelously authentic to the era.
The set is minimal but full of beautiful period details. It is an easy set that allows free movement keeping the action in context. The costumes are true to the nature of the characters.
When great artists come together, magic can materialize. Million Dollar Quartet is a powerful story confirming why these sessions should happen more often. It makes the world a little bit better.
Photo Credit: Andrée Lanthier
Million Dollar Quartet: presented by Segal Centre. Directed by Lisa Rubin. Book by Colin Escott & Floyd Mutrux. Original Concept and Direction by Floyd Mutrux. Show continues until May 14, 2017, at Segal Centre, 5170 Chemin de la Côte-Ste-Catherine, Montreal. Tickets $65. Call the box office 514-739-7944 or go to www.segalcentre.org
Show extended from May 17 to 21 at Cinquième Salle, Place des Arts, 175 Ste.-Catherine Street West, Montreal. For tickets, call the box office at 514-842-2112 (or 1-866-842-2112) or go to www.placedesarts.com