London News & Search
GRAND BEND –
As pure entertainment, Million Dollar Quartet is hugely successful.
The people in the seats around me clapped their hands, tapped their toes, snapped their fingers and applauded frequently.
I counted more than 25 mini-breaks during the afternoon when the audience showed its appreciation.
As a polemic, as an argument that Sam Phillips — the man who founded the Memphis star factory Sun Records — should be properly thought of as the “father” of rock and roll, it’s less convincing.
Were Ray Charles among the living today, I think he’d have something to say about that.
In the show’s truest moment, Phillips (J. Sean Elliott, who is the narrative glue holding the entire musical together) admits to the audience that part of the reason he signed Elvis Presley is because he was a solution to a problem: The studio boss needed a white face to sell the black sound.
At the risk of wearing out a phrase that’s already overused, whole lotta cultural appropriating goin’ on.
Million Dollar Quartet takes us back to Dec. 4, 1956.
That’s the night when past, present and future Sun stars gathered for a legendary jam session.
On hand are Jerry Lee Lewis (played by Gerrad Everard), Carl Perkins (Tyler Check), Presley (Matt Cage) and Johnny Cash (Maxwell Theodore Lebeuf).
This will be a night to remember — Lewis is about to blow up, Perkins needs a hit, Presley has just gone Hollywood and Cash has quitting Sun on his mind.
This is the moment when rock and roll could become the next big thing or fade like so many other musical fads.
Everard, as Lewis, is a rebel among outlaws and gets all the best lines. “These fingers of mine, they got brains in them,” he brags about his piano prowess.
He’s all swagger and overconfidence.
The most raucous moment comes when he delivers a sermon on the damnation awaiting all purveyors, and fans, of the devil’s music.
This is a time before rock and roll became just plain rock.
In a sense, the senior-skewing audience would have been among the hardest to please, since they have their own memories of all four of these artists.
Be that as it may, they applauded after EVERY number.
And they all shook their rumps at Everard’s request during the inevitable standing ovation.
On the technical side, I counted one missed and one late lighting cue.
From what I’ve heard, the set is about the same size as the cramped Sun Studio, which Phillips housed in a converted auto-parts shop.
My question going into the show was: How will they cram so many well-known musical numbers into a single show?
To his credit, director Alex Mustakas does so in a way that makes sense and feels organic.
There’s no feeling of anything being forced into place or being shoehorned into the action.
IF YOU GO
What: Million Dollar Quartet, a musical presented by Drayton Entertainment
When: On until Aug. 5; Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Fridays 2 p.m.
Where: Huron Country Playhouse mainstage, 70689 B Line, Grand Bend
Tickets: Tickets are $46 for adults, $27 for youth under 20. Contact the box office at 1-855-372-9866 or visit draytonentertainment.com for tickets, times and packages.
Rating: **** (out of five)
London News & Search