Courtesy of Joan Marcus
If the one-act musical “Million Dollar Quartet” is any indication, Elvis Presley is indeed still alive, and he’s rocking harder than ever.
The show, which opened Tuesday and is set to run through Sunday at the Palace Theatre, features electrifying performances by true triple-threat entertainers.
“Million Dollar Quartet” recounts a single day, Dec. 4, 1956, when an impromptu jam session featuring Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis broke out at Memphis recording studio Sun Records. It was the first and only time the four musical legends performed together under one roof.
The show is tasked with a somewhat minimalist storyline and setting – all the action is confined to the studio and there are no set changes throughout. In theory it shouldn’t have worked, but what the show lacks in plot, it makes up for in the music.
The four leads are astoundingly believable in their roles, most notably Cody Slaughter as Presley, whose thrusting hips and curling lips on songs like “Hound Dog” and “That’s All Right” are just showmanship without crossing the line into parody.
David Elkins nails Cash’s low, rumbling baritone on tunes like “Folsom Prison Blues” and “I Walk The Line,” and James Barry’s guitar chops as Perkins are electric on “Who Do You Love?” and “See You Later Alligator.”
Lending the show some, albeit dry, comic relief is Ben Goddard as Lewis, the brash new kid on the label who flawlessly transitions from immature jokester in one scene to cocky piano player in the next.
A somewhat random but welcome addition to the lineup is Kelly Lamont’s Dyanne, a girlfriend of Presley’s who tags along to the studio and performs a sultry rendition of “Fever,” a song made popular by Peggy Lee, to break up the testosterone fest. While Lamont is a worthy performer in her own right, Dyanne is misplaced and lost among the rest of the more intriguing cast.
There’s definitely no shortage of music in “Million Dollar Quartet,” packing 23 songs into a 90-minute show, but it does manage to sneak some plot development in by focusing on the tension and uncertainty each performer faced at the time. Perkins is jealous of Presley’s success, Lewis is desperate for attention, Cash wants to leave the label and Presley is trying to cope with the mounting pressures of fame. Sun Records owner Sam Phillips, played by an engaging Vince Nappo, acts as the narrator, navigating through flashbacks and guiding the story.
After what seemed like a dozen encores, each just as loud as the last, the cast finally closed out the show with a rousing rendition of Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” which left the audience ready to continue rocking into the night.
Tickets are available for $28 or $83 from Ticketmaster. Tickets for Saturday’s performance are on sale for $20 at the Ohio Union. The Palace Theatre is located at 34 W. Broad St.