The kick-off to the Diamond Jubilee Season "Million Dollar Quartet " at Maine State Music Theater is rocking the house.
This recreation of a legendary one-off jam session on December 4, 1956 is the true story of the night that brought together rock 'n' roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time.
Scripted by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott, Million Dollar Quartet is a jukebox musical, It repackages old songs instead of showcasing an original score. This one doesn’t need a fictional story to string together old hit tunes.Instead, it re-creates a real night from 1956, adding few embellishments. It is currently keeping the audiences at Maine State Music Theater on their feet and cheering. It's a foot-stompin’, guitar-strumming celebration of the actual birth of rock ‘n’ roll.
The actor/musicians in Maine State Music Theater's "Million Dollar Quartet" are brilliant. It's not just the talent they bring to the stage, it's the love of the music, the delight of the moment, and a joy of performing that cannot be "acted." This enthusiasm spills over into the audience and puts each person watching in the moment. Go. See it. This cast of singers are also accomplished musicians.
Scott Moreau brings soul to Johnny Cash with his deep baritone. When Moreau steps up near the end and says, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash" the crowd goes wild. In truth, Cash was actually only at the Sun Record's reunion for a few minutes, and was never actually recorded that night. He posed for the picture and left after singing a few gospel songs with his pals before the recording was started according to Carl Perkins' biography and retelling of that night. Do not let the facts ruin a good time. If we couldn't tidy up the details of the past we'd never have any really good shows like this.
James Barry as Carl Perkins has the intensity of a young man who has seen a big part of his future vanish. In reality, Perkins ended up suing Sun Records over the loss of royalties for "Blue Suede Shoes" and other songs. Barry delivered probably the most rounded performance of the evening. He sang with strong vocals and played the guitar so closely to the actual man that it was as if he channeled him. In the scene where he confronts Phillips, he shows us his acting chops.
Brandyn Day plays the incorrigible Jerry Lee Lewis with a charm that disarms the audience from his first brash entrance to his last literally earth shaking "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On". His acrobatics playing the piano, while delivering the music would have Jerry Lee Lewis himself on his feet cheering. His boyishness was sweet and endeared him to the audience. His talent won them over.
Jason Loughlin as Sam Phillips, the "father of Rock n' Roll," captures Phillips' guts as well as his vision. There is so much more to this story than that one night. Sam Phillips, founder of the label Sun Records, did not care much about making flawless recordings. He rejected perfection in favor of spontaneity and individuality. Sam was looking for something far beyond perfection: spontaneity, individuality. You got that clearly from Loughlin's nuanced performance.
Carl Perkins once said while recording, "But Mr. Philips, I made a mistake," and Sam said, "Nobody's going to notice that mistake, you had the feel on that." Carl said, "But it's a mistake," and Sam said, "That's what we are at Sun Records. That's what Sun Records is: We're one, big, inspired mistake."
Do not make the mistake of missing this great show. Tickets are available online at www.msmt.org or over the phone at (207) 725- 8769. Shows have been added to accommodate the demand but don't wait.
Hunter Foster, the Director and Choreographer, has put it all onstage for you, right where it belongs. He deserves a bow of his own. Bravo!
Below are some links to the original performers back in 1957. Enjoy.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRNyvO4QouY Carl Perkins "Blue Suede Shoes"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw7SBF-35Es Jerry Lee Lewis "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGZm7EOamWk Elvis Presley "Hound Dog"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMgbul-bq3Q Johnny Cash "I Walk the Line."