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Tuesday, 20 April 2010 12:54

Broadway Review: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET

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Million Dollar Quartet
Levi Kreis (on microphone), Robert Britton Lyons (top), Corey Keiser (playing bass), Eddie Clendening (kneeling) and Lance Guest in Million Dollar Quartet
On a single night in 1956 fate and Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records brought together four of the greatest names in rock 'n roll, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.  Million Dollar Quartet, Broadway's newest jukebox musical fictionalizes the event with a lackluster book that continually seems to get in the way of the smokin' hot musical performances.

The shows million dollar quartet consists of Eddie Clendening as Elvis Presley, Lance Guest as Johnny Cash, Levi Kreis as Jerry Lee Lewis and Robert Britton Lyons as Carl Perkins.  Broadway favorite Hunter Foster stars as Sam Phillips and Elizabeth Stanley is Dyanne, Elvis' girlfriend who accompanied him to the session. 

While all four members of the quartet do a marvelous job portraying their respective icon, Lance Guest as Johnny Cash comes the closest vocally; from "Fulsom Prison Blues" to "Sixteen Tons" Guest nails Cash vocally.  Eddie Clendening as Elvis is the weakest of the quartet vocally.  While he is no slouch, he never quite channels Elvis as he takes on "Memories Are Made of This," "That's All Right," "Long Tall Sally" and of course, "Hound Dog."  He does a fine job capturing Elvis' physicality.  Levi Kreis brings a broad Danny Kaye style of humor and a standout musical ability to the role of Jerry Lee Lewis.   He tears it up with his piano playing leaving it smoking when he's done.  Robert Britton Lyons also brings an incredible musicality and personality to his portrayal of Carl Perkins.  He handily tackles "Matchbox," "Who Do You Love" and "See You Later Alligator." 

Million Dollar Quartet
Hunter Foster, Levi Kreis, Robert Britton Lyons, Eddie Clendening and Lance Guest (L-R) in Million Dollar Quartet
Photo: Joan Marcus

As Dyanne, Elizabeth Stanley has a couple of solo numbers, "Fever" and "I Hear You Knocking."  She has an attractive voice but unfortunately gives such a stylized performance that it's distracting.

Hunter Foster does a terrific job as Sam Phillips, a man to whom he bears a striking resemblance.  Phillips discovered all four of these men, ultimately losing many of them to bigger labels.  But before you go feeling sorry for Sam Phillips you should know he was one of the original investors in Holiday Inn and did quite nicely.

Unfortunately, with Million Dollar Quartet just as soon as a song gets going, Phillips interrupts with dialogue.  Granted, it was usually an interesting piece of information but it broke the rhythm.  While the show has a big finish to the evening we are never allowed to enjoy the complete experience of many of the songs.  Originally conceived and directed by Floyd Mutrux, the current production is directed by Eric Schaeffer, the artistic director of the Signature Theatre in Washington, D.C. 

Million Dollar Quartet has a book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux.  While we do learn a bit of rock 'n roll history the book is sparse at best.  Thankfully, the music makes you want to get up and dance, if only we could.  Despite its shortcomings, Million Dollar Quartet is a rockin' good time with some old friends.

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View full production credits at the Internet Broadway Database.

Last modified on Thursday, 02 September 2010 23:19