“Million Dollar Quartet Christmas” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – November 20, 2021

TPTC’S “MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET CHRISTMAS” IS ENTERTAININGLY STAGED BUT WON’T BECOME A CLASSIC HOLIDAY SHOW

“MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET CHRISTMAS”
The Phoenix Theatre Company, Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Christmas is upon us and hopefully this year’s festivities will be brighter than during the pandemic as vaccinations improve the situation.  Theater troupes usually celebrate and The Phoenix Theatre Company is the first in the country to premiere a new musical that capitalizes on the success of “Million Dollar Quartet.”  That show captured Memphis music producer Sam Phillips luck in combining four great rock ‘n’ rollers – Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash – to record these artists singing their biggest hits.

The new show, “Million Dollar Quartet Christmas,” repeats the earlier show’s success by reviving some of the singers earlier hits but adds a smattering of loudly played and rock orchestrated holiday songs that gives the traditional classics a jumping and jiving sound.  It is set in 1956, a day after the earlier recording session that turned “Million Dollar Quartet” into a big hit.

The holiday show isn’t destined to mirror the success of the earlier tribute.  It is short on new insights into the performers and it is a single act affair with so little to explore that after the initial curtain call several more holiday tunes are added to send audiences off happily entertained.

The TPTC production, mounted in conjunction with the original show’s creators and exuberantly staged by Scott Weinstein who successfully helmed TPTC’s two earlier productions of the original tribute, is breezily diverting, entertaining, and superbly played by a talented cast who re-create these performers with sincere heart minus lame parodying as they play their characters’ instruments winningly.  But the show doesn’t go anywhere new and it doesn’t have a holiday festiveness to make it a must-see.

JP Coletta’s Lewis jumps around the stage with animated and athletic moves as he bangs a mean piano.  Gregg Hammer’s Cash strums a lively guitar while Sam Sherwood bounds about strutting his guitar effectively as Perkins. Daniel Durston portrays Presley with the right facial expressions, the plastered hair, and the suggestive gyrations the icon pioneered.  Also included is Elvis’ girlfriend played by Amanda Valenzuela who adds to the vocals winningly, Nathan Yates Douglass rattles a bass with gusto, and Chris Cerreto adds an enlivening beat on drums.

TPTC’s “Million Dollar Quartet Christmas” isn’t destined to take its place with other holiday classics even though it entertains.  Just don’t expect to leave on a holiday high at the end.  “Million Dollar Quartet Christmas” continues to January 2.  For tickets, contact The Phoenix Theatre Company box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: B-

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