By Kathy Carpenter
Lamb’s Players Theatre Presents , “Million Dollar Quartet” – the Million Dollar Evening – worth every Penny. This is a high-energy, ass-kicking celebration written by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott, directed by Kerry Meads and presents immeasurable talent.”If you’re not doing something different, you’re not doing anything.” Sam Phillips.
This is the story of one incredible night, December 4, 1956, when Sam Phillips brought Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, to Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. It is not only the music, of the four legends, but also, and the part I enjoyed most, the history behind the men. We see how Sam Phillips discovered and developed their raw talents. Phillips had a great knack for seeing the souls of his musicians, and encouraging the rawness, bringing out the emotion that made them icons.
Elvis was sold to RCA, and eventually they wanted to buy Phillips to manage Elvis. Elvis, also wanted Sam. He believed in Phillip’s guidance. Credit goes to the Colonel for Elvis’s success, but it was Sam Phillips, who initially put Elvis on the map. Phillips was his own man and didn’t want to work for someone else. Eventually although not in his best interest, Sam turned the RCA offer down. He also, lost Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, to Columbia. He then rocketed Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison to success.
In 1969 Sam Phillips sold Sun Records to Shelby Singleton. The business remains today under The Sun Entertainment Corporation, licensing it’s brand and hit recordings.
Million Dollar Quartet performed in 2019 in Vista with three cast members reprising their roles. Including Charles Evans Jr., who took home a Craig Noel Award for his role as Johnny Cash. I grew up listening to an old Johnny Cash 8 track tape my mom would play over and over. I did not like his songs or him. The man in black. I deemed him the old country I did not like. However, Evans, rocked. I knew all the songs,and he sounded just like Cash. Everyone agreed. He even brought Johnny’s brooding demeanor to the stage.
I grew up a younger fan of Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll, with a crush, and love of his music. My one regret in life is not seeing the King live. I would have loved his showmanship as a performer. That being said, I was a bit disappointed when I got to the show. Michael Louis Cusimano, was extremely talented, and as close as I could tell had Elvis’s signature moves down. Hard as they may be to replicate for an entire show, he was a great singer and performer, but he wasn’t Elvis. He didn’t look or sound like him.
Ben Van Diepan, also reprized his role as Jerry Lee Lewis. The new wild young talent with a strong belief of self, while giving Carl Perkins grief – a friendly rivalry. Van Diepan, was perfect as Jerry Lee bringing the crazy demeanor the part called for.
As for Carl Perkins, I had heard the name but knew nothing about him. He was played by Brett Benowitz, an amazing talent, giving us the guy with a chip on his shoulder. and the godfather of Rockabilly. Perkins was the actual hit singer and owner of the gold record behind “Blue Suede Shoes..” Not appreciative of Elvis singing of the song on the Ed Sullivan show, and thus the song essentially becoming Presley’s,
Sam Phillips, played by Lance Authur Smith, who narrated the historical aspect of the story. Compelling in his authenticity of the storytelling, he was a hidden gem. The show also features Kate Sapper, as the lone female in the ensemble. She was Presley’s’ girlfriend and advocate who was smart, sweet, sexy, and hit us with tremendous vocals.
Two others are included in the cast. Mackenzie Leighton, who is also reprising his role, as Carl Perkin’s brother Joe, the incredible bass player, and Brian Dall, who plays the drums. I love drums.
The costumes reflect clothes of the times. Transitioned into the sequin glam of the stars they became in the finale. The set was a simple studio with tiled walls, fifties pin ups and a wall of Gold Records, keeping the focus where it belonged on the Million Dollar Quartet.
A rather fascinating aspect took place when Phillips took a photo to commemorate the moment and the original photo is projected on the screen, capturing the special moment.
You don’t want to miss this show, 200 minutes without intermission passing in flash – a piece of musical history to rock the ages.
Million Dollar Quarter
April 9th – extended thru June 26th, 2022
Lamb;s Players Theatre
August 6 thru September 18, 2022