Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Million Dollar Quartet
Ivoryton Playhouse
Review by Zander Opper | Season Schedule


Joe Callahan
Photo by Anne Hudson
Ivoryton Playhouse's production of Million Dollar Quartet is pure dynamite. Chronicling the historic evening in December 1956 when Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis were all performing together at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, this show offers spectacular musical numbers featuring all four of these superstars.

Director/choreographer Sherry Lutken has done a marvelous job staging this musical and she has found ideal actors to take on the four rock icons. The book is by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, with the original concept and direction by Mutrux. Million Dollar Quartet opened on Broadway in 2010 and has proved to be an ideal show for regional theaters, featuring a small cast and one unit set. The Ivoryton Playhouse production is a rockin' good time from beginning to end and should even entertain theatergoers who aren't necessarily rock and roll fans.

Luke Darnell is absolutely wonderful and Carl Perkins, singing such songs as "Matchbox" and "Who Do You Love?" to a fare-the-well. Also doing a super job is Jeremy Sevelovitz as Johnny Cash, especially in such tunes as "Sixteen Tons" and "I Walk the Line," with the latter song being a particular standout. These actors don't exactly do impersonations of the rock superstars; instead, they capture the essence of the stars and deliver the goods in the musical numbers.

This alchemy goes double with the actor playing Elvis, the exuberant John Rochette, who has energy and voice to spare. The presence of Elvis is a little less apparent in the show, compared to the others, simply because he is the last to arrive at Sun Records, but Rochette more than makes up for that with his electric performance. Joe Callahan is absolutely on fire playing Jerry Lee Lewis. He gets the biggest laughs in the show, in the book scenes between the songs, and it should be noted that Levi Kraus, who played Jerry Lee Lewis in the Broadway production, went on to win a Tony Award. It's a showy part and Callahan gives it his all, with roof-raising renditions of "Great Balls of Fire" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On." His piano playing is positively astonishing.

(The roles of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash are to be portrayed, respectively, by Eddie Clendening and Evan Buckley Harris, during the final week of the run at Ivoryton Playhouse. Notably, Eddie Clendening originated the role of Elvis on Broadway in Million Dollar Quartet and Evan Buckley Harris played Johnny Cash in the national tour and the Las Vegas production of this show).

Million Dollar Quartet also features strong performances by Ben Hope, who plays Sam Phillips, the manager of Sun Records, and Emily Mattheson sizzles as Elvis' date, Dyanne, in her steamy renditions of "Fever" and "I Hear You Knockin'." Kroy Presley and Jamie Pittle also do a great job as band members, with expert musical direction by Eric Scott Anthony.

The show looks great, too, with an inviting set designed by Martin Scott Marchitto, period perfect costumes by Rebecca Welles, and especially effective lighting by Marcus Abbott.

Million Dollar Quartet at Ivoryton Playhouse is quite an evening of entertainment and, at the performance I attended, the entire audience was standing up and dancing throughout the encore. Go to this show and enjoy.

Million Dollar Quartet continues performances at Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, Connecticut, through June 25, 2017. For tickets, please visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org or call the box office at 860-767-7318.


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