Is there anybody who doesn’t know “Blue Suede Shoes” “Great Balls of Fire?” “Folsom Prison Blues?” For those of us who remember all these songs as coming-of-age anthems, and for anyone who wants a rockin’ great evening at the theater, Million Dollar Quartet, The Musical (MDQ) is your summer entertainment ticket. Playing now through Aug. 11 at the Hafen Indoor Theatre at Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins, Utah, this show has it all.
This musical was inspired by the night of Dec. 4, 1956, at Sun Records Studios in Memphis. On that historic evening, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis all showed up, jamming as colleagues and jabbing as competitors for the Number 1 spot on the music charts. Narrator Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records, was genius at drawing out the unique styles that each of these music immortals brought to his studio. Starting with Carl Perkins, a sharecropper’s son who came to him with rockabilly tunes that morphed into the birth of Rock and Roll, to the tempering–never taming–of wild man Jerry Lee Lewis, Phillips tells of his struggles to hold together his quicksilver record empire that was being cannibalized by the behemoths of the day, RCA and Columbia Records.
Onstage antics, drama, and spot-on character interpretations of the MDQ icons make this performance a must-see. The Tuacahn cast is a mash-up of performers who have appeared in the Las Vegas runs of MDQ and Jersey Boys, two of the best musicals to play the Strip in recent years.
Benjamin D. Hale (Johnny Cash), Gabe Aronson (Jerry Lee Lewis), and Kyli Rae (Elvis’s firecracker girlfriend, Dyanne) appeared in the long-running Las Vegas MDQ show. John Gardiner (Sam Phillips) has done more than 2,000 performances as Tommy DiVito in Jersey Boys. Colin Summers nails his role as the legendary guitarist songwriter Carl Perkins. Kavan Hashemian (Elvis Presley) has had the distinction of playing Elvis in MDQ Memphis, where Elvis fans don’t suffer fools. He earned BBC’s title of “The World’s No. 1 Rock ‘N Roll Elvis in a recent London television competition.
The electric performance by this cast adds up to a night to remember. The personal-sized Hafen Theatre brings the performers so close that the audience sees the sparkle in Elvis’s eyes, and the brooding presence of Johnny Cash as he struggles with a career decision to follow his devotion to gospel singing. Sam Phillips defends his legendary passion of following his independent path as a record producer and gloats on his reputation as the “Father of Rock and Roll.”
This evening onstage encapsulates an American turning point. It brings back more than just musical memories. It recounts the time when chains of musical and social tradition were being snapped like worn-out guitar strings.
MDQ tickets are available online at www.tuacahn.org and phone 800-746-9882. Performances 7:30 p.m. nightly except Sundays through Aug. 11, plus 2 p.m. matinees on Fridays and Saturdays. Hafen Theatre seats no children under age five. (Promotional consideration was provided to MLN by Tuacahn.org.)