“Million Dollar Quartet” – Phoenix Theatre

Theater Review – March 10, 2018


Mainstage Theatre, Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Hearing Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes,” Johnny Cash’s “Sixteen Tons,” Elvis Presley’s “Party,” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” in a musical comedy is not traditional but in “Million Dollar Quartet” those rock ‘n’ roll legends are heard with more than 20 of their pop tune hits as this rollicking show pays a glorious tribute to these four singers discovered by entrepreneur Sam Phillips.  The show recreates the December 4, 1956 reuniting of this quartet at Phillips’ Memphis Sun Records studio, the only time these greats ever sang together.  Phoenix Theatre mounts the first local production of this homage with great flourish because outstanding musical performers portray the four unique talents with realistic honesty.

It’s not a profound show but it demonstrates how different these four crooners were and how each of their unique song styling made them stars.  It shows Phillips’ gift at spotting the talent but also how each performer needed to move on to more prestigious labels to achieve artistic success.  The revue also reveals the reflective side of each singer that never allowed them to forget their roots.

The superb performers gathered have their own triumphant musical skills to make their representations so artfully faithful.  They are aided by a set that recreates Sun Records tacky Memphis studios and costuming that returns audiences to this ramshackle period.  The revue’s finale is a riotous but musically triumphant concert.

PT’s “Million Dollar Quartet’s” ultimate success is due to the performers’ flawless interpretations.  Kavan Hashemian’s Presley is complete with his gyrating hips and just a touch of the singer’s arrogance plus his superb vocals.  Kurt Jenkins’ haughty Perkins captures the man who didn’t always get credit for his jiving movements.  Bill Scott Sheets’ deep-voiced Cash towers over the others but Cash is the performer most affected by his need to leave Phillips and strike out on his own.  Chris Lash throws his hair and body around as he pounds gloriously at Jerry Lee Lewis’ spicy piano song treatments.

Alyssa Chiarello plays the one female who makes it to Sun Records on Presley’s arm but ends up adding a feminine touch to every crooners hit.  Kyle Sorrell has the thankless task of essaying Phillips, the “Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” but he handles the betrayal of his talented finds with emotional style as he realizes that he lacks the skill to turn these guys into stars.  Austin Case and Alex Crossland add the pounding bass and beating drum accompaniment to the proceedings.

Phoenix Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director Michael Barnard writes a touching program tribute to the recently deceased Arizona Republic/Phoenix Gazette theater critic Kyle Lawson.  “Million Dollar Quartet” continues at Phoenix Theatre through April 15.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-251-2151 or order tickets online at phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A