REVIEW — Think of Tuacahn Center for the Arts’ current production in the indoor Hafen Theater as a rock concert with a script. Along with the live performance of over 20 groundbreaking songs from the early days of rock n’ roll, “Million Dollar Quartet” dramatizes the events of Dec. 4, 1956, when four future music legends had a chance meeting in a Memphis recording studio and the impromptu jam session that followed.
The titular quartet includes legendary performer Carl Perkins (played by Colin Summers), who arrives at Sun Studio at the request of recording impresario Sam Phillips (John Gardiner), to record new songs with brash new kid Jerry Lee Lewis (Gabe Aronson).
Elvis Presley (Kavan Hashemian) arrives with girlfriend Dyanne (Kyli Rae), as does Johnny Cash (Benjamin D. Hale), who is there to tell Phillips he’s signed with a competing studio.
Much of the show’s content is likely speculation, but a key part of the narrative serves to explain how Phillips’ inspired insight and brilliant vision brought such phenomenal talent to the masses. Phillips’ character narrates the compelling back stories of each of the four main performers. But make no mistake, this show is about the music, and from that standpoint, “Million Dollar Quartet” truly rocks.
Inhabiting without impersonating the four iconic performers proves a bit challenging (with the exception of Aronson’s fabulously over-the-top Lewis), and the acting feels a bit forced in spots. But any doubt about the skill set of the actors goes away when they begin to play and, most impressively, sing. Of particular note is perhaps the show’s quietest song, a gorgeous, stripped-down version of “Peace in the Valley.”
While the story itself doesn’t need the artistic embellishment of the character Dyanne (who in real life was a dancer not a singer) the script by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux allows the stunning Rae to sing along with the boys and even crush her bluesy solo on “I Hear You Knockin.’”
Carl, Elvis, Johnny and Jerry Lee had a lasting impact on popular music, and Tuacahn’s “Million Dollar Quartet” rousingly captures one very special night in Memphis.
“Million Dollar Quartet” plays Monday-Saturday until Aug. 11 at the Tuacahn Center for the Arts indoor Hafen Theater. Tickets are $29 and up. Purchase tickets online, in person at the Tuacahn box office or by calling the box office at 800-746-9882 or 435-652-3300.
- What: Tuacahn’s production of “Million Dollar Quartet.”
- When: Monday-Saturday until Aug. 11.
- Where: Tuacahn Indoor Hafen Theater, 1100 Tuacahn Drive, Ivins.
- Cost: $29 and up.
- Purchase tickets: Online | By calling the box office at 800-746-9882 or 435-652-3300 | At the box office, 1100 Tuacahn Drive, Ivins.
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