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Million Dollar Quartet – The Other ‘Fab Four’ Delievers 50′s Punch at McCallum

December 1st, 2013 | by Christian Chalifour | Comments

I must confess, I walked into Million Dollar Quartet Wednesday night at the McCallum, with only the TV spots and some last minute online information I was able to find to study up on the show. Fortunately, as there really wasn’t a story line to follow, it turned out to be just a wonderful evening of reveling in the fun and frolic of the mid-1950’s rock and roll.
The premise is simple… On December 4, 1956, Sun Records owner Sam Phillips gathered together his four legends whose careers he’d launched in Memphis, Tennesee – Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley. A newspaper man who was there wrote, “This quartet could sell a million!” (a lot of money in those days) and they were soon dubbed the Million Dollar Quartet. This was their only performance… no audience… but a cultural flashpoint that caught rock ‘n’ roll at the moment of creation And of course all four, and Sam Phillips himself became Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame’s charter inductees. Unlike other producers at the time, Phillips took an active role in recording, encouraging and coaxing his young, untested artists to reach deep with themselves. The music he recorded transformed the cultural landscape of the twentieth century, and its reverberations are still felt today.
From its humble beginnings as a stage musical in 2007, first at Florida Seaside Music Theater, and then further developed at the Village Theatre in Issaquah, Washington, it then played in Chicago and made its way to Broadway in 2010. With a book by Colin Escott & Floyd Mutrux, the music of course is timeless, and every song we heard at McCallum has become a classic in the more than half century since. A couple of songs caught me by surprise: “Blue Suede Shoes” for example, so strongly associated with Presley, was in fact, written and first recorded in 1955 by Carl Perkins, played with heart and soul by James Barry. Cody Slaughter was admirably forward, yet polite as the 21-year-old Elvis, with torchy Kelly Lamont as Dyanne on his arm. As both the instigator and brunt of several great jokes, John Countryman gave us a lot of comic relief with his piano antics as the over-the-top energetic Jerry Lee Lewis. I really didn’t want to single out anyone in particular in this “other Fab Four” but for me, the strongest renderings and performance came from Scott Moreau, as the young Johnny Cash. His eloquent, deep baritone speaking and singing voice was so perfectly suited for this show. Rounding out the performers were Patrick Morrow as Fluke, the drummer and Corey Kaiser as bass player Jay Perkins. The latter’s stage antics with his bass were unbelievable, with a few moves I’m not sure should be legal, but they sure were fun, especially in the finale.
Million Dollar Quartet continues today, Sunday December 1st, at 2 pm ($85/65/55/35) and 8 pm ($95/75/65/45), McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert, 760-340-2787. If you are a fan of any, or all four, of these “other Fab Four” and the wonderful music of the 50’s, you won’t be disappointed.

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