Elvis is back; did he ever leave?
Last night, Mr. Presley arrived on Broadway along with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis. “Million Dollar Quartet” is the story of heir one day reunion at Sun Records in Memphis on December 4, 1956. They’d all started at Sun with Sam Phillips, and on that day they met for the last time.
This Broadway show doesn’t have much of a story. The guys meet, and Cash has something to tell Phillips. Otherwise, there isn’t much information. It’s just the most enjoyable jam session ever, with the four guys playing their rockabilly hits, and giving a feel for what it must have been like to invent rock and roll. (They are missing Chuck Berry, Roy Orbison, Little Richard and Ike Turner, but it’s ok. That could be the sequel.
The performers are better than expected. They really put on a show, singing and playing their own instruments. Every show is different, too. They improvise, and invent the concert as it unravels. Lance Guest–who once was a regular on “Lou Grant” is well known for starring in “The Last Starfighter”–is super as Johnny Cash. Levi Kreis — a full time musician–just about steals the show as Jerry Lee; he does the wild man proud on those keys, to say nothing of playing with elbows and shoes. Eddie Clendening is a smart Elvis, keeping away from impersonation. And Robert Britton Lyons makes Carl Perkins, maybe the least well known of the four, a real person.
Sam Phillips (played by Hunter Foster) was a music industry icon, so the heavy guns were out last night. Paul Shaffer and wife Kathy were there, plus “Law & Order” star Tamara Tunie, famed record producer Phil Ramone and former head of NARAS Michael Greene. The show got a big sponsorship from Gibson Guitars, too, which parked an enormous bus covered with their logo across the street from the Nederlander Theater on West 41st St.