The excitement never lags as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins take centerstage in Million Dollar Quartet, Tony-nominated as Best Musical of 2010 and the latest from 3-D Theatricals, a rock-and-roll crowd-pleaser for ages eight to eighty-nine.

 Part of the thrill of seeing Elvis (Cole), Johnny (David Elkins), Jerry Lee (John Countryman), and Carl (Michael Monroe Goodman) assembled on one stage for the concert of their lives is the discovery that this Million Dollar Quartet did actually get together and jam at Sun Studios, Memphis on December 4, 1956, a date that will live in rock-and-roll history for all time.

 A fifth real-life great joined the foursome that December day, and that man was Sam Phillips (Zachary Ford), the record executive/producer who discovered and helped make Elvis, Johnny, Jerry Lee, and Carl stars on his Sun Records label, only to lose them one by one to RCA, Colombia, and other biggies.

From that real-life event, book writers Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott have created a through-story that proves involving from start to finish as Sam takes us back in time to the moment each of the four first entered his life.

 Then, once they are all assembled in his studio along with Elvis’s girlfriend du jour (Adrienne Visnic as “Dyann”), we become flies on the Sun Studio’s fourth wall awaiting news that’s sure to turn Sam Phillips’ life around, though unfortunately not as he had imagined.

 That’s not to say that Million Dollar Quartet is ever a downer. The hits just keep on coming and coming, from “Blue Suede Shoes” to “Folsom Prison Blues” to “Sixteen Tons” to “Long Tall Sally” to “I Walk The Line” to “Great Balls Of Fire” to “Hound Dog” to “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”—with many more in between.

And taking a cue from Mamma Mia, Million Dollar Quartet ends with a live mini-concert that gives each of its four stars his encore moment in the spotlight.

 With David Lober recreating Mutrux’s original direction with utmost affection and skill, Cole, Countryman, Elkins, and Goodman may not all be dead physical ringers for the originals, but together they convince us that they are indeed the superstars whose songs they’re performing, three of the four accompanying themselves on guitar (electric and acoustic) and Countryman’s Jerry Lee doing such dazzling keyboard magic that simply watching his fingers fly brought tears to this reviewer’s eyes.

 The irresistible Countryman’s sassy, scrappy flamboyant tickling of the ivories is just one reason to stand up and cheer Million Dollar Quartet’s sensational hit-singing, instrument-playing, character-nailing cast.

 Cole’s sexy hip-swiveler is the next best thing to having Elvis brought back to life in all his pre-Hollywood, pre-Vegas, black-pompadoured glory. Elkins revives Johnny’s Man In Black persona to basso-voiced, movie-star-handsome perfection. Assistant musical director Goodman follows his electrifying star turn as Huey in Musical Theatre West’s Memphis with a Carl Perkins who could turn anyone into a rockabilly devotee.

 As for rising star Visnic, not only does the sunny blonde look red-hot stunning with scarlet locks, she sings the living daylights out of “Fever” and “I Hear You Knocking.”

Bass player Omar D. Brancato (as Carl Perkins’ brother Jay) and musical director-drummer David Lamoureux (as Fluke) and provide expert onstage backup throughout.

Last but not least, SoCal musical theater star Ford aces his second non-singing role in a row with his powerful, multifaceted Sam, a rock-and-roll legend in his own right and at long last given his very own place in the Sun.

 Derek McLane’s original Broadway scenic design recreates Sam Phillips’ studio in intricate detail all the way to the reel-to-reel tape recorder spinning in the control room throughout. Jean-Yves Tessier’s stunning lighting design, some spot-on costumes based on Jane Greenwood’s, and Julie Ferrin’s impeccable sound design add to the production’s terrific look and feel.

Set, props, and costumes are provided by Networks. Melanie Cavaness and Gretchen Morales are prop coordinators. Jene Roach is technical director.

Donna Parsons is production stage manager and Terry Hanrahan is assistant stage manager.

Million Dollar Quartet is that rarity, a show that truly is for music lovers of all ages, from teens, who can’t help but respond to the excitement of a genre that transformed the world of pop music overnight, to their octogenarian grandparents who would have been mere teens back in ’56.

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Cerritos Center For The Performing Arts, 12700 Center Ct Dr S, Cerritos.

–Steven Stanley
February 18, 2018
Photos: Caught In The Moment Photography



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