BWW Reviews: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET Brings Legends to Life in Durham
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by Larisa Mount
Put on your blue suede shoes and head down to the Durham Performing Arts Center for a fun-filled evening of rock and roll legends. Million Dollar Quartet tells of the historic night, December 4, 1956, when four legends happened to be in the recording studio at Sun Records at the same time: Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash.
The show features hit songs from all four artists, and is a theatrical approximation of what might have happened the night of perhaps the most epic jam session in history. The music (and musical performances) are clearly the show’s strength. At times, the book portion of the musical feels like it’s stretching a little to squeeze a story into the mix, but the music absolutely makes up for any lacking in the book, and then some. The audience gets so into the show and the music, that for much of the show, the ambience is that of a rock ‘n roll concert rather than a Tony-nominated musical. The transformative quality of the show speaks very highly of not only the music within, but to the performers themselves.
The four actors who portray the music icons are simply great at what they do. The response from the audience to David Elkins saying, “Hi, I’m Johnny Cash” gave me chills – it was like, in that moment, they forgot that he is not actually the Man in Black. Cody Slaughter not only looks like Elvis Presley, but has mastered the voice, the movement, and the good-old-Southern-boy charm. Robert Britton Lyons, who originated the role of Carl Perkins and has playEd Perkins in every incarnation of Million Dollar Quartet, does “Blue Suede Shoes” the justice it deserves, and shows off his excellent guitar skills on many other numbers. Rounding out the quartet, Martin Kaye manages to portray Jerry Lee Lewis as irritatingly confident without actually irritating the audience. His piano skills boggle the mind, and it is a delight to see him portray such a dynamic pianist as Lewis with startling accuracy.
While the show is likely particularly appealing to those folks who grew up in the 1950s and 60s, there’s something for everyone to love. The music of Perkins, Presley, Cash, and Lewis is ubiquitous in America, and the generations of folks from after the 60s will still find themselves waxing nostalgic for an America they’ve heard so much about and the birth of Rock ‘n Roll, the effects of which are still incredibly present in today’s music.
From the opening “One for the money…” to the glitzy finale, audiences can’t seem to get enough of the Million Dollar Quartet! The show runs through December 9. For tickets and more information, visit www.dpacnc.com.