Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Arsht Center: Million Dollar Quartet (reviews)

The national tour of Million Dollar Quartet opened at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on December 27, 2011.
On December 4, 1956,  rock 'n' roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins were gathered together by Sam Phillips (the ''Father of Rock 'n' Roll'') at Sun Records in Memphis for the first and only time, for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions of all time.
MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET brings that legendary night to life with an irresistible tale of broken promises, secrets, betrayal, celebrations, and featuring timeless hits...

Eric Schaeffer directed a cast that featured Lee Ferris, Martin Kaye, Derek Keeling, Cody Slaughter, and Christopher Ryan Grant.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
No record, no film, not the finest re-engineered CD nor re-mastered Blu-Ray DVD, nothing captures the insolent immediacy of the gauntlet that rock threw in the face of the Eisenhower Era so well as some of the live performances in this road  show at the Arsht Center.
...from the opening notes of “Blue Suede Shoes “(One for the  money, crash; two for the show, slam; three to get ready, slap; now, go, cat, go) Million Dollar Quartet is usually an express train joyously running out of control.
...Kaye is the crowd-pleaser as a vibrant cage-rattler Lewis, down to his signature arched back and foot-stomping. But the surprise is the quiet but commanding brio of Ferris who, of all the cast seems to be the most accomplished musician. His lead guitar licks are rock  ’n’ roll incarnate.

Grant makes a nice blustery Southern go-getter as Phillips who Mutrux has made the narrator of the evening, looking back on the historic evening.  He’s saddled with all the clunky exposition and he works hard to make it sound like he’s telling us a war story in a honky-tonk somewhere.

The show was directed by the Eric Schaeffer, best known for productions of Stephen Sondheim revivals at his Washington, D.C., Signature Theatre. He hasn’t got a lot to work with here; it’s like assigning Richard Avedon to shoot family portraits at K Mart.
Music critic Howard Cohen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The jukebox musical’s story might be thinner than the 1956 model Elvis, but for pure entertainment Million Dollar Quartet is worth a million bucks.
...refreshingly compact at about 90 minutes with no intermission, Million Dollar Quartet transcends simple impersonation. The cast captures the essence of these famed musicians, but the performances never feel like slavish karaoke. Keeling has by far the richest, most resonant voice and his booming Cash, on Tennessee Ernie Ford’s hit Sixteen Tons and Stan Jones’ (Ghost) Riders in the Sky, is top-shelf. Slaughter’s Elvis, by comparison, is vocally thin and scratchy on such up-tempo hits as Hound Dog but warm on ballads such as Memories Are Made of This. His dancing and agile stage movements, however, are better. Lee Ferris’ oft-cranky Perkins consistently fires off tasty licks on his guitar.

Martin Kaye has the biggest shoes to fill — blue suede or not — as he follows Levi Kreis’ Tony-winning performance on Broadway as Lewis. Kaye, irrepressible as the lovable enfant terrible, gets all the script’s best lines and delivers them with brio, humor and accompanying body language. Kaye’s musicianship, as he athletically pounds the piano, would test the skills of the finest pianist.

By all means, if you go — and you should — don’t bolt after curtain call. The rockabilly quartet returns in glittering jackets for a five-song encore, รก la the Mamma Mia! musical, and it’s an irresistible coda to a fun show.
Million Dollar Quartet plays at the Arsht Center through January 1, 2012.

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