worst thing to say about this Broadway import is that it is essentially
just another tribute show, with guys you've never heard of pretending
to be Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis.
best thing to
say is that the impersonations are pretty good, and you get to hear
some hard-driving first generation rock'n'roll classics.
terms of quality, this show lies somewhere between Jersey Boys (far
better book) and Thriller (far worse evocation of the originals).
for creators Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux is that Presley, Cash,
Perkins and Lewis were all discovered by Sam Phillips of Sun Records in
Memphis, and a photograph exists of the four of them in the Sun studios
in December 1956 (See the album cover to the right).
imagine, not unreasonably, a jam session, punctuating the songs with a
bit of dialogue (mainly Phillips reminiscing about how they each began)
and a bit of plot (mainly whether they'll move on to bigger record
are minimal - Presley is the visiting celebrity, Cash a simple country
boy, Perkins (still smarting over Elvis's cover of Blue Suede Shoes
eclipsing his original) the bitter premature has-been, Lewis the cocky
beginner and class clown. (There's also Elvis's girl du jour, brought
in just to have a girl there, and an excellent bass player and
tribute acts, Derek Hagen's Cash is the most successful, capturing
everything from his unique way of holding a guitar to the timbre of his
voice. Michael Malarkey's Presley is also spot-on, both physically and
Jerry Lee Lewis,
Ben Goddard doesn't get the singing quite right, but captures the sound
and excitement of the piano playing, including that take-no-prisoners
right hand. Robert Britton Lyons doesn't come close as Carl Perkins,
but you can easily forgive that because his high-energy guitar is the
driving force behind all the numbers in the show.
yes, we get to
hear rocking and frequently very accurate sounding versions of Blue
Suede Shoes and Folsom Prison Blues and Great Balls of Fire and Hound
Dog and about twenty more (including a few that hadn't been written in
1956, but what's a little anachronism between friends?)
do have to insert
a consumer alert here. It has become unfortunately common in musicals
to have an 'At Certain Performances' alternate to the star, but this
show has alternates (as well as understudies) to all four leads, and if
you come on the wrong night you may see an entirely different cast.
its best, the show rocks. At its worst, it might make you wish you were
home listening to the originals.
at its best, it rocks.
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- Million Dollar Quarter - Coward 2011