warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Theater Review: "Million Dollar Quartet" At The Pantages

Shaina Eng |
June 20, 2012 | 12:55 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

"Million Dollar Quartet" will be at the Pantages Theatre for two weeks this summer.  (Photo by Jeremy Daniel, Courtesy of Broadway/L.A.)
"Million Dollar Quartet" will be at the Pantages Theatre for two weeks this summer. (Photo by Jeremy Daniel, Courtesy of Broadway/L.A.)
It’s not every day that you get to see four music superstars hang out and jam. But it did happen once; on December 4, 1956, when four of the most important figures in rock and roll history came together in Memphis at the Sun Records studio to play some of the biggest hits in music history.

“Million Dollar Quartet” is based off of the legendary jam session with Carl Perkins (Lee Ferris), Jerry Lee Lewis (Martin Kaye), Johnny Cash (Derek Keeling), and Elvis Presley (Cody Slaughter), brought together by the “Father of Rock and Roll,” Sam Phillips (Christopher Ryan Grant).  Throughout their time spent at the studio, the four icons laugh, joke, and sing with each other, but it’s not always sunshine and happiness; secrets are hidden from one another and grudges are brought to the surface.

A musical that felt much more like a glorified tribute show, “Million Dollar Quartet” abounds in fantastic musical performances, which is even more impressive once you realize that they are all playing live—with no faking.  The score features several upbeat, rocking songs that we all know and love, but the gems were in the slower tunes—“Peace in the Valley” and the reprise of “Down by the Riverside”—that really showcased the wonderful musicianship of the actors through rich vocal harmonies.  

But as far as story goes, there isn’t a lot of it.  The dialogue between characters is sparse and not always compelling. However, there are a few gems; the interactions between Carl and Jerry Lee never ceased to elicit laughs, the scenes with Phillips and Dyanne (Kelly Lamont) kept the audience’s rapt attention, and the final scene with the entire company elicited thunderous applause as the lights faded to black.

Derek McLane’s scenic design is relatively simple and well-suited to the show.  For the majority of the show, all we see is the humble recording studio at Sun Records, and this set serves the story well.  Howell Binkley’s lighting design was cleverly used to “pause” action as Phillips broke the fourth wall to talk to the audience, and to augment the emotions that the show tried to convey during each song (though some were more subtle than others).

The excellent musical performances of “Million Dollar Quartet” alone are worth the price of admission.  The show offers a peek inside the lives of four incredible rock and roll icons, and the concert-like atmosphere brings the audience to its feet, clapping and dancing along to rock and roll favorites.  If you’re looking for a show that will get you out of your seat and rocking along, “Million Dollar Quartet” at the Pantages Theatre will have you singing along long after the show ends.

Reach reporter Shaina here; follow her on Twitter here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.