by Beki Pineda

MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET – Book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux; Music by various artists; Directed by Rod Lansberry. Produced by the Arvada Center (6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada) through July 2. Tickets available at 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org.

On the fateful night of December 4, 1956, an invitation went out to three of the powerhouse personalities of the music world of that time inviting them to the studios of Sun Records where they had all gotten their start. Surprisingly, all three were in Nashville at the time and showed up on Sam Phillip’s invitation. When they arrived, they met a fourth musician, while just getting started, was destined to become a member of this Million Dollar Quartet. Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley were all part of this (imaginary) impromptu jam session with Jerry Lee Lewis being the newcomer. Thus begins the production of MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET playing under the stars at the Arvada Center’s outdoor amphitheatre until July 2. You won’t find a more rousing or memorable evening of song all summer.

courtesy Arvada Center

The evening starts off with “Blue Suede Shoes,” a song written and recorded by Carl Perkins but given to Elvis by their mutual producer Sam Phillips (Zach Andrews).  From then on, it’s non-stop music of the 50’s.  Song’s like “Matchbox” and “See Ya Later, Alligator” by Carl (Sam Sherwood), “Memories are Made of This” and “Long Tall Sally” by Elvis (Nick Voss), “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Walk the Line” by Johnny (Andrew Frace) and “I’m a Wild Boy” and “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee (JP Coletta).  The woman who came in with Elvis only identified as Dyanne (Suzanna Champion) sang a sultry version of “Fever” that pleased all of the men present.  All four sing together on a wide variety of song stylings as far apart as “There will be Peace in the Valley” to “Let’s Have a Party.”  And party they did – all night long. The “meeting” called by Sam Phillips had an ulterior motive about getting contracts signed and re-affirming his place in these artist’s lives, but they each had their own little surprises for Sam regarding their futures.

While each of the actor/singers had a passing resemblance to their characters, I have a feeling that if you saw them on the street you wouldn’t see Elvis or Johnny in their faces.  The excellent portrayals came from costume, hair styles, mannerisms and vocal quality – to the point that it was easy to forget this wasn’t really 1956 and you weren’t really looking at a young Elvis. They ribbed him about his movies and generally had a “good ol’ boy” attitude about one another. Jerry Lee’s determination to have his voice heard and his juvenile behavior resulted in a lot of kidding as well. Mr. Colletta certainly captured the raw energy Jerry Lee put out on the stage during his performances. The musical skills all of the players brought to the stage were extraordinary, accompanying themselves on guitar and piano, supplemented with the Bass played by Ian Haegele and Drums of Sean Case.  The evening’s professionalism was enhanced by the fact that all of these performers have done the parts before and slipped into their persona’s with ease because of that familiarity.

You’ll get Shakespeare under the stars a little later in the summer but if you want “A Whole Lotta Shaking” under the stars, here’s the place to go!!

A WOW factor of 9!