Theater review: 'Million Dollar Quartet' from Florida Theatrical Association

Imagine putting Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash on stage together and letting them cut loose in song. What else would you need for a night's entertainment?

I hope your answer was "nothing," because that's all you get in "Million Dollar Quartet," the touring Broadway show that opened Tuesday at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre. There may be a whole lotta shakin', but there's not a whole lotta plotting goin' on.

Yet by setting its sights low — simply entertain the crowd with some of the most iconic songs in rock 'n' roll history — "Million Dollar Quartet" delivers on what it promises. Nostalgia, charm and energy build with such a fervor that by show's end the audience is clapping and singing along.

The musical, which was first presented in 2006 at Daytona Beach's now-defunct Seaside Music Theater, is inspired by a true event. The four singers met one legendary night in Memphis, Tenn., at the Sun Records studio, owned by Sam Phillips. It was shortly before Christmas 1956, and the resulting jam session caught Presley fresh from his movie debut in "Love Me Tender," Perkins in need of his next hit, and newbie Lewis looking for his big break.

In a half-hearted attempt to provide some sort of tension, a wisp of a story is grafted around the musical numbers in which Phillips wants to extend Cash's contract, not knowing Cash has decided to change record labels.

But those musical numbers are the heart and soul of the show — "Blue Suede Shoes," "I Walk the Line," "Great Balls of Fire," the hits come one after another. And because the set-up is a jam session, the pesky need to twist the songs to a storyline a la "Mamma Mia!" is eliminated.

The performers deftly walk the fine line between evoking the legends and coming across as Vegas-style impersonators. Their success is greatly helped by the mighty fine musicianship on display.

Martin Kaye (Lewis) virtually throws himself at the piano, his fingers flying across the keys, while Lee Ferris (Perkins) revs up the guitar. Scott Moreau (Cash) hits those deliciously deep bass notes with aplomb, and Cody Slaughter (Presley) has a pleasing tone whether singing sweetly on "Peace in the Valley" or rocking out to "Hound Dog."

Slaughter also charms as he conveys the buoyant optimism of a young Elvis, while Kaye's Lewis deservedly gets the biggest laughs with his cockiness and ongoing jabs at Perkins.

Christopher Ryan Grant is a congenial Sam Phillips, and Kelly Lamont provides some sass and a compassionate shoulder as Dyanne, a fictitious girlfriend who accompanies Presley to the studio.

In the end, "Million Dollar Quartet" gets by on talent and showmanship — a fitting tribute to the men it celebrates.

'Million Dollar Quartet'

What: Touring production of the Broadway musical

Length: 1:45, no intermission

When: 8 p.m. today-Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30-Nov. 4

Where: Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, 401 W. Livingston St., Orlando

Cost: $52.15-$90.40

Call: 1-800-745-3000

Online: ticketmaster.com

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