Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Million Dollar Quartet, Chicago Cast

"It was one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and go, cat, go..."

It was a Tuesday afternoon in 1956 at Sun Records Studio in Memphis, just an old garage remodeled, and Carl Perkins was scheduled to record a few songs, but he was late. His brother Jay plucked the upright bass, and Fluke Holland sat behind the drums. Owner Sam Phillips stood outside the control booth talking to new session pianist Jerry Lee Lewis, when in walked Elvis Presley and his latest girl, visiting his old haunt. Perkins soon appeared, followed by Johnny Cash. Three chart-topping recording stars and one promising new talent were assembled, and Phillips had plenty of recording tape. It would be a recording session to remember.

More than fifty years later, the only assembly of four legendary performers inspired a musical The Million Dollar Quartet, which is currently playing in Chicago. We saw the musical in the compact Apollo Theater. There is not a bad seat in the house. We were in the fourth row - very close and practically part of the production. We could see and hear everything, especially 21songs delivered with great energy by four actors/musicians channeling the pioneers of rock and roll. 

The looks and the sounds were pretty convincing. I was most impressed by Lance Lipinsky playing the role of Jerry Lee Lewis. How could someone learn Lewis's crazy acrobatic moves and still play piano? I was also impressed by the ringing electric guitar of Shaun Whitley as Carl Perkins, which seemed to highlight in many of the songs. We knew most of those songs very well, "Blue Suede Shoes" to "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On."

Between the songs, Tim Decker as Sam Phillips narrates/directs a story about the discovery of four singers and the rise and fall of Sun Records. Some liberties are taken with Perkins brother Clayton dropped from the story, the name of Elvis's girlfriend changed, and time compacted into one dramatic day/night, but the general spirit is in line with Good Rockin' Tonight: Sun Records and the Birth of Rock and Roll by Colin Escott, one of the authors of the script for the musical.

Of course, many baby boomers will love this show, but there were gen-Xers in the crowd as well. It was an electrifying show that has sparked my interest in doing some research on the characters. What more could I ask?

"See you later, alligator."


adgorn said...

I took my clan there over Thanksgiving weekend and we all had a blast. Agreed on Lance. Here's his website: He will be at the Hard Rock Cafe for free on Dec 10th. We took a picture with him after the show and he was very gracious, polite and appreciative.

ricklibrarian said...

Lance was out with the public after our show, too, shaking hands and posing with groups.