Big Talent = Big Bucks as Presley, Cash, Lewis, and Perkins Get Together for Jam at Midtown Arts
Reviewed by Tom Jones
January 27, 2017
On December 4, 1956, some already-famous entertainers get together for an evening of conversation and a chance to record some music in the Sun Records studio in Memphis Tennessee. Headliners Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash were all put on the road to fame by producer Sam Phillips. They turn up at the studio to exchange pleasantries – hesitant to talk about the future, as some may have already made plans to leave Sun Records. New on the scene is an off-the-wall talent wild man by the name of Jerry Lee Lewis. Phillips sees his potential. The others aren’t quite so sure.
Such is the premise of the incredible “Million Dollar Quartet” on stage of Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins to March 18. In the space of a couple of hours some extremely talented performers remind the audience of life in the 50s with such pieces as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Fever,” “Memories are Made of This,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Hound Dog,” “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” “See You Later Alligator” and a host of others.
I was expecting a form of concert performance, but found more – much more! The performers display talent rarely seen anywhere. And the story line includes some interesting history of the early years of Rock and Roll. Sam Phllips has enjoyed great success with his discovery of the talents of Presley, Perkins, and Cash. He has lost Presley to RCA, but the two remain friends. Presley shows up at the Sun Records recording studio that night with his girlfriend, Dyanne, to show appreciation for what Phillips has done for his career. Unbeknownst to the producer, Perkins and Cash are thinking of also leaving Sun Records. Jerry Lee Lewis turns up at the studio with the hope of finding fame with the producer.
Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott wrote the musical based on the historic night in Tennessee. The musical premiered in Florida in 2006 and went on to Chicago, Broadway, London, and a National Tour. The performers on stage in the MAC production include three with substantial experience with the National Tour of the show or in Las Vegas: Cole, as Elvis Presley, Christopher Wren — show-stopping in his portrayal of Carl Perkins, and Skip Robison as Johnny Cash. Their talent is undeniable. Guitars are played by entertainers standing up, lying down, with their hands behind their back…. What can’t these guys do? Skip Robison has perhaps the most difficult role of the three. He is required to maintain the Cash calm, remaining more subdued, as the others musically tear the stage apart.
On the other hand, Joe Callahan is on stage to amaze. Callahan is well known to MAC audiences who were unprepared for the depth of talent this man possesses. He is the crazy Jerry Lee Lewis whose fingers fly across the keyboard, much to the initial dismay of Carl Perkins who first sees him as an undesirable rival. Sam Phillips is well portrayed by the convincing Daniel Harkins. Charlotte Campbell is good as Presley’s girlfriend, Dyanne, and even has a change in the spotlight with her rendition of “Fever.” Max Bezanson is terrific on the bass, as Carl’s Perkins’ brother, Jay,” and Larry Bridges continues his string of drummer perfection – with six years of performances at MAC.
By show’s end, the performers portrayed are perhaps a bit wiser, but not less talented. The audience has learned some history, and seen history in the making with brilliant performances.
“Million Dollar Quartet”
Where: Midtown Arts Center, 3750 South Mason Street, Fort Collins, CO 80525
When: To March 18, 2017
Information: Box Office: 970/225-2555