On December 4, 1956 four of music’s biggest stars gathered at Sun Records in Memphis for one of the greatest jam sessions ever.
Rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins were together for the first and only time and the story of that night is told in the smash-hit Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet, which is currently playing in Detroit at the Fisher Theatre.
Anyone with a appreciation for music will enjoy this fascinating retelling of how these powerhouses came to be together mixed in with some fictional dramatization of what was going on in the lives of the participants at the time.
Popular songs like “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Fever”, “Sixteen Tons”, “Great Balls of Fire”, “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Hound Dog” are all featured.
The story is told through the narration of Sun Records’ founder Sam Phillips (Christopher Ryan Grant) who really holds the show together as he introduces each of “his boys” and how he came to discover and nurture their careers.
The impressive set design features the Sun Records’ recording studio, control room and occasional moments outside the studio.
The show begins with Phillips (Grant) and Jerry Lee Lewis (the fabulous Martin Kaye) preparing for a Carl Perkins (Lee Ferris) recording session.
Lewis is the newest addition to the Sun Records’ family but his fiery, cocky personality rubs everyone the wrong way, particularly Perkins who just wants to record his music his way.
Perkins is unaware that Phillips has invited Johnny Cash (Derek Keeling) to the studio, where he intends to get him to resign another contract, as well as Elvis Presley (Cody Slaughter), who is in town visiting for the first time since he signed with big label RCA.
To say the least, Phillips is not happy about the extra company but eventually everyone ends up taking part in the jam session and it turns into a party atmosphere where the focus is just on the music.
Presly arrives with his girlfriend Dyanne (Kelly Lamont) and she also takes part in the jam.
There is a undercurrent of uneasiness as the audience is aware that Phillips has been talking to RCA about selling his label to them and taking a job at RCA to once again work with Presley.
Presley has found himself missing the easy days of being at the smaller label and having more control over his own music and career and he and Dyanne find time to encourage Phillips to go to RCA throughout the evening.
At the same time Cash and Perkins have both signed contracts with another label and are unsure how to break the news to Phillips.
The stage is set for a thrilling climax that ends with a bang as the curtain closes and a Vegas style stage show is set up allowing the performers to perform a medley of hits.
Million Dollar Quartet staging, sound and acting is fantastic and is definitely worth checking out.
Martin Kaye in particular does a great job of playing to the entire audience throughout the performance as he clearly seems to be enjoying channeling Lewis’ wild-man personality.
However, it is Christopher Ryan Grant’s performance as Phillips that holds the show together and brings it full-circle. He does a great job of showcasing just how important Phillips was to the talent he helped create and guide.