Theater Review: ‘Million Dollar Quartet’

Melissa Garrett

In a phenomenal tribute performance, the cast of Million Dollar Quartet recreates the rock star rivalry, musical genius and iconic style of  Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis by telling the true story of how a twist of fate and “Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll” Sam Phillips brought the stars together.

The 90-minute show takes the audience inside the Sun Records studio. With Bryan Langlitz (as Sam Phillips) narrating the story with a heavy southern accent, the audience is gradually introduced to the stars, who open the show singing “Blue Suede Shoes.” A blue spotlight falls on each of the actors, while Langlitz explains, somewhat morosely, how “his boys” came together for the first and only time.

Toward the beginning of the show, the rivalry between piano-playing, head-banging Lewis (Colte Julian) and Perkins (Gabe Bowling) as a guitar-strumming powerhouse made for an entertaining series of performances, with both actors trying to outshine each other. Perkins is supposed to be recording his song, but Lewis and the other actors playing Elvis Presley (Jacob Rowley) and Cash (Scott Moreau) join his recording session, until it turns into one big reunion of rock stars.

With just the right blue lighting and spotlights, Rowley becomes the spitting image of Elvis Presley, which is more convincing when he swings his knees and hips around, moving around the stage as “the King” would have done. “Hound Dog” was definitely one of his most impressive performances, especially with the iconic slicked back hairdo and glittering gold, black and silver jacket.

The actor who received the most immediate praise was Moreau as Johnny Cash. His wonderfully deep voice and all-black Western wear made for a highly convincing performance, and his pitch was perfect. Moreau has definitely mastered the swinging runs and tone quality of the infamous Johnny Cash. The actor’s rendition of “Folsom Prison Blues” was well received by the audience, which began clapping during his performance.

One of the most beautifully executed numbers was the acoustic “Down By the Riverside,” featuring the company. Smooth notes and chillingly impressive harmonies made this song an audience favorite, and mine. Another unique number was the artistic collision of Cash’s “Sixteen Tons” with Perkins’ “My Babe,” with Moreau and Bowling singing a hybrid version of both songs.

A surprising twist had Presley’s supposed girlfriend figure Dyanne, Laura Obenauf, go from singing a smooth and jazzy “Fever” to the raspy and powerful “I Hear You Knocking,” which had Obenauf impressively belting her song to the rafters. In a stunning fuchsia pink dress, Obenauf was phenomenal as both a singer and dancer.

Many of the more recognizable songs, including “I Walk the Line,” “Hound Dog,” “See You Later Alligator,” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” were toward the tail-end of the show. After Perkins’ “See You Later Alligator,” the audience stood up to clap, dance and sing along.

Roars of applause brought all of the actors out on stage again, this time with the quartet standing center stage, as four glittering jackets were lowered down from the heavens and were slung on for the finale number, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” With Bowling (in blue), Moreau (in black), Julian (in red plaid) and Rowley (in gold, silver and black) glittered on stage in their sparkling jackets, as blue and white lights shone down on the actors.

Large flecks of shimmering silver confetti rained downward as Julian hopped atop the piano, leaning back and playing without looking at the keys as Bowling jumped around stage playing guitar. Simultaneously, Moreau played guitar with his arm held out in a Cash-esque pose while Rowley brought out the Elvis dance moves, singing with passion and excitement.

Million Dollar Quartet definitely did the rock ‘n’ roll stars justice with this unforgettable performance. The audience gave the actors two standing ovations, both of which were well-deserved. After the epic finale and the actors’ exit, audible sighs of disappointment with immediate praise were distinguishable among audience members when the show ended.

Whether growing up with rock ‘n’ roll or not, audiences of all ages can appreciate the spectacular talent and high quality performance that is Million Dollar Quartet.