By: Beth Beekly
On December 4th, 1956, Carl Perkins showed up late to his recording session with Sam Phillips at Sun Records. When he arrived, he found a cocky young upstart named Jerry Lee Lewis sitting at the piano chatting with Phillips. Lewis would become the fourth rock ‘n’ roll legend to get his start this tiny studio in Memphis, joining such legendary company as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jack Clement, and Roy Orbison, but for that afternoon he was just the new pianist who had been brought in to spice up Perkins’s sound and hopefully bring him another chart-topping hit to rival “Blue Suede Shoes.” At some point the King himself, Elvis Presley, showed up at the studio with a girlfriend. After listening to the session for a few minutes, he liked how things were sounding and decided to pop in. At some point later, Johnny Cash, who supposedly was actually the first one there that day and had been hanging out elsewhere in the studio, decided to join the impromptu jam session and just like that, a “million dollar quartet” was born.
That fateful night would be the first and the last time these four superstars would ever be brought together, but the next day the Memphis Press-Scimitar ran an article by journalist Bob Johnson about the miracle session; that sensational article, combined with the fact that Sam Phillips recorded the entire night, immortalized the Million Dollar Quartet for all time. As is almost inevitable when that many prodigious musicians are all in the same place at the same time, quite a bit of drama ensued, and Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux later collaborated on a book about the event. Mutrux later adapted the book into a musical that was first performed in Florida in 2006, and has enjoyed major success ever since. Million Dollar Quartet is what is known as a “jukebox musical”–a show where previously recorded and released music is used as the soundtrack, like Singin’ in the Rain and the 1999 hit Mamma Mia! The Million Dollar Quartet score incorporates hits like “Who Do You Love,” “Hound Dog,” “Ring of Fire,” and “Real Wild Child,” among many others.
This weekend, the national Broadway tour of Million Dollar Quartet is here in Spokane, at the INB Performing Arts Center! From my front-center orchestra level seat on opening night, I could genuinely feel the “fever.” It was about as high-energy a show as I have ever experienced; the auditorium was packed, and everyone was having an absolute blast. The incredibly talented performers not only sang, danced, and acted the pants off their roles, but they also all played their characters’ instruments brilliantly at the same time. James Barry (Carl Perkins) masterfully integrated a sense of indignation, fierce competitiveness and an unshakable sense of inferiority into a cohesive, beautifully tragic character; Cody Slaughter (Elvis Presley) was a sweet, sensitive, and slightly brooding Elvis with flawless hair and killer dance moves; Scott Moreau (Johnny Cash) perfectly captured Cash’s reserved politeness and his gentle, respectful demeanor; and finally, John Countryman (Jerry Lee Lewis) stole the show with his goofy antics and unabashed self-confidence. Vince Nappo (Sam Phillips) was a passionate and loyal businessman as well as a captivating narrator, and Kelly Lamont (Dyanne) played an incredibly sexy, yet surprisingly thoughtful Dyanne. Corey Kaiser and Patrick Morrow (Jay Perkins and Fluke) chilled in the corner tearing up the upright bass and drum set, respectively. As an added treat, the real W.S. “Fluke” Holland, drummer for both Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash and also the drummer who was present at the Million Dollar Quartet’s recording session in 1956, apparently lives nearby and was AT THE SHOW for the opening night performance on Thursday, December 12th, and he got up to be introduced and recognized. He was every bit as cool as one would expect–snappy little blazer, wild white hair, and sunglasses (in spite of the fact that we were in a theater that was pitch black).
GO SEE THIS SHOW! It is worth every cent, and remember, with your GU Student ID, tickets are only $27.50, which is a fantastic deal for nationally touring Broadway shows like this one. It’s a busy week with finals coming up next week, but if you find you are needing a break from your books, I would most definitely recommend checking this out. Keep coming back to the blog and stay tuned for exclusive production photos and actor interviews!