If I could start this review with a round of applause, I would.
I’m a huge Village Theatre fan; no point in hiding it, but there’s something extra special about Million Dollar Quartet. Aside from the fact this Tony-award winning musical debuted on Village Theatre’s stage more than a decade ago, Million Dollar Quartet has another quality that makes it stand out from some of the other productions: It’s based on a true story.
So, here’s how it goes: In the mid-1950s, music legends Elvis Presley (Jason Kappus), Johnny Cash (Brian Grey), Jerry Lee Lewis (John Countryman), and Carl Perkins (Skye Scott) were together under the roof of Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee for what became an impromptu jam session.
According to Sun Records, Carl Perkins was at the studio with a few musicians to cut some tracks, along with Jerry Lee Lewis, an emerging artist who was playing piano for Perkins’ session. Elvis Presley dropped by with his girlfriend, Dyanne (Cayman Ilika) to pay a visit to Sam Phillips (Matt Wade), current owner and founder of Sun Records and the man who helped launch Presley’s career as a Sun Records artist. Shortly after, Johnny Cash, another Sun Records artists, sauntered in.
That famous night was preserved with the recording Phillips kept running during the session, and roughly four dozen tracks were performed, according to an article by The Star. A reporter who was there that night called it “The Million Dollar Quartet,” and the name remained throughout history.
I’m naturally drawn to stories rooted in truth, but this wasn’t a show I was jonesing to see. I’m not a starry-eyed fan of any of these musicians. I don’t play their records, and I don’t know many of their songs. However, watching the actors who portrayed them on stage was honestly magical. It was like the rock stars had been resurrected for a few hours, reliving the night of December 4, 1956. Who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall for that gathering? Not only is it entertaining (the actors are actually singing and playing their instruments), but it’s a heck of a story. The musical offers a little insight into their true characters and what their lives were like at the time.
The performance was amplified by the audience members, many of whom likely watched these men play live on stage or from the box TVs in their living rooms. At the end of the show, as the lights popped with dazzling choreography and the actors energized the stage with an encore, an elderly couple danced. For one night, the lovely pair got to relive their earlier years too, and that’s pretty special.
Million Dollar Quartet runs until June 23 in Issaquah and from June 28 to July 28 in Everett.
Did you know?
In the show, Elvis Presley’s girlfriend is introduced as Dyanne, an up-and-coming singer with dynamite vocals. But that isn’t her real name. The real woman is believed to have been Marilyn Evans, a singer whose career was short lived and who was dating Presley at the time, according to The Guardian. Apparently, it wasn’t explicitly clear that Evans was there that night, so it was decided to give Presley a fictitious girlfriend.