The Cape Fear Regional Theatre opens its 2016-2017 season with Million Dollar Quartet, a co-production with Theatre Raleigh, of the Tony award-winning Broadway hit. The story recounts a true event from December 4, 1956, when four future iconic music-makers (Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis) gathered at Sun Records in Memphis. The result was an impromptu jam session.
Fayetteville audiences are in for a treat. Million Dollar Quartet is a rompin’, stomping, clapping, snapping good time! If you thought CFRT’s Ring of Fire was good last season (and I do), be prepared for the cast and crew to take the musical party to the next level. CFRT and director Tim Seib are to be commended. The show is fantastic. The performers are top-notch. The music is excellent.
The show offers a sampling of music from all four performers and ranges from rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly and blues to gospel. It kicks off with “Blue Suede Shoes” and ends with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” with a great mix in between. The cast sings all the music and plays all
It is hard to choose just one or two favorite songs from the show. While the individual performances highlight the actors’ talent, the ensembles highlight their range and the festive atmosphere of the show. Joe Boover as Elvis was terrific on Dean Martin’s “Memories Are Made Of This.” As Cash, Ted Bushman killed it on “Sixteen Tons.” Despite the rousing audience appeal and participation in the ensembles “See You Later Alligator” and the closer “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” my favorite of the night was “Down by the Riverside.” For me at least, the soulful performance reflected the professional and personal trials of the real-life men, who despite fame and fortune, seemed to always be searching for the internal peace the performers sing about.
While the crowd always did and seems to still go crazy for Elvis and Cash, Ian Fairlee and Michael Kennedy gave noteworthy turns as Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. Quite frankly, Fairlee stole the show with his energy. Kennedy’s solid portrayal of Perkins and his musical chops on the guitar were the backbone of the show.
Those who only associate the jam session with the four legends are in for a surprise. Fayetteville-based actress Taylor Kraft portrays Dyanne, Elvis’ gal-pal who was with him that evening at Sun Records. Kraft heated up the entire audience with her rendition of “Fever.” Her last turn on the CFRT stage was in last season’s Ring of Fire.
Kudos to Jon Rossi and Jason William Steffen. Steffen played the double bass. Rossi served as the music director for the production and played the drums. Both were able to showcase their musical talent and give a nod to often overlooked studio musicians.
Throughout the show, we get a glimpse inside the music business during that era from Sam Phillips, played by David McClutchey, a regular at Theatre Raleigh. Phillips gave each of the quartet their starts in the business by encouraging and showcasing their individual styles. Through McClutchey’s portrayal, we see that success is sometimes due not only to talent, but also business acumen.
There are no weak links in Million Dollar Quartet. It is a first-class show all the way around. Don’t miss it.
The show runs through Oct. 2. For tickets and information, visit www.cfrt.org or call the box office at 323-4233.