BY MICHAEL J. MILLER
At first glance, Million Dollar Quartet appears to be another touring impersonator/cover band concert, but nothing could be further than the truth. Rather, this recent Broadway smash musical brings to life one of the most mythical-yet-true jam session in the history of rock and roll.
Just before Christmas in 1956, Carl Perkins found himself in a bit of a post- “Blue Suede Shoes” funk. He booked a recording session with producer Sam Phillips and his band along with Jerry Lee Lewis and laid down some fresh tracks, one that included what would go on to become one of the best known Perkins songs, “Matchbox.”
What happened later that December afternoon has become the stuff of rock ‘n’ roll legend. But it really happened, and Million Dollar Quartet brings it all to life. It is like being a fly on the wall while pop culture history is being made.
At some point later that day, Perkins and Phillips were joined by a young upstart named Elvis Presley and another young man in black, Johnny Cash. The four broke into an impromptu jam session, and luckily, nobody bothered to turn off the recording equipment. A newspaper man who was there wrote, “This quartet could sell a million.” But they didn’t. Because that rare December day was the only time the four legends-to-be ever performed together.
Million Dollar Quartet turns that historic December day in 1956 into a rock ‘n’ roll time capsule. Some have referred to it as a cross between Mamma Mia! and Jersey Boys as a way of relating its story arc and “jukebox” musical qualities.
A recent tour stop in Boston prompted this response from The Boston Globe critic:
“Yes, you’ve heard most of these songs a million times before, but the show reminds you why they became classics in the first place. Million Dollar Quartet turns out to be an unexpected treat and delivers on one of the promises that’s always been at the heart of rock ‘n’ roll, something that shouldn’t be taken for granted: the simple pleasures of a good time.” I can’t think of a better way to get over the post-holiday slump than putting on my blue suede shoes and dancing in my seat at the Opera House with some old school rock ‘n’ roll.
Million Dollar Quartet runs a approximately 90 minutes and is performed without an intermission. January 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Eastern Kentucky University Center for the Arts. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Go to ekucenter.com for tickets and information.