Vibrant cast of ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ worth it Talented Weston performers put on 'toe-tapping music fest'

Elvis and his girlfriend Dyanne. All photos by Hubert Schriebl

By David Lampe-Wilson
©2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Early rock ‘n ‘ roll rears its pompadoured head in the high-octane jukebox musical Million Dollar Quartet at Weston Playhouse.

Over two intermission-less hours we are treated to a music catalog of early rock, R&B and gospel music performed by a talented and vibrant cast that handles two dozen classics with exuberance.

The evening is hung on a slender premise: a meeting of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins in Memphis at Sam Phillips’ Sun Records recording studio. This soon turns into an impromptu jam session during which these four musical icons sing their early hits and recount their early lives and experiences in the music business. Eventually, the evening morphs into a rock concert that’s hard to resist.

Karack Osborn keeps the story flowing as producer Sam Phillips; and while his narration early on interrupts the flow — a fault of Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux’s thin book — Osborn anchors the production in believability.

The Million Dollar Quartet sings ‘Down by the Riverside.’

It is the eponymous Quartet that seals the deal on this foot-tapping music fest. Jefferson McDonald’s infectious humor and physical bounce invest Jerry Lee Lewis with endless energy and quirky movements, while allowing serious undertones to creep in. Tommy Crawford imbues Carl Perkins with understandable resentment and worry about his future in the music business. James Penca’s Johnny Cash is racked by guilt as he turns his back on Sun Records. Joe Boover paints Elvis Presley with worry over his career choices and his future.

But it is, of course, the music that must impress, and we are never let down by the performances. From “Blue Suede Shoes” to “Whole Lotta Shakin’,” the music hardly ever stops; the beat is infectious and irrepressible.

Johnny Cash walks the line.

Johnny Cash walks the line.

By the end of the evening, the audience is on its feet singing “See You Later Alligator” and all, it would appear, seems right in the world.

Special note should be made of Caitlin Doak who plays Presley’s girlfriend Dyanne and who cuts through the male vocals with some sweet and sassy vocals of her own. Kroy Presley on bass and Jonathan Brown on drums contribute mightily to the musical’s success

Million Dollar Quartet, under the direction of Michael Berresse, speeds along like a well-oiled machine. The performers exude a natural chemistry and there’s always something interesting to watch or hear.

The Million Dollar Quartet jamming at Sun Records.

Scenic Designer Tim Mackabee has created a highly functional music studio setting; Costume Designer Leon Dobkowski captures the time and the personalities perfectly; and Seth Reiser’s lighting design keeps our eye in the right place at all times.

Million Dollar Quartet recollects a time when a new type of music was coming into being and of how the old guard worried about its impact on post-war society. But, most importantly, Million Dollar Quartet provides a splendid musical escape for a summer’s evening.

Million Dollar Quartet continues through Sept. 2 at the Weston Playhouse, 12 Park St., Weston. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 2 p.m. matinees on Wednesday and Saturday and 3 p.m. matinees on Sunday. For more information, call 802-824-5288 and for tickets click here.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeIn the ArtsReviews

About the Author: After 30 years as a theater critic and arts editor for a Connecticut daily newspaper, David Lampe-Wilson transplanted to Vermont with his wife and two cats.

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