When four young recording legends-to-be, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis, ended up in an impromptu jam session on December 4, 1956 history was made. Ironically, no one appreciated its importance at the time and one of the most significant moments in rock n’ roll history was almost forgotten.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Except for one newspaper article, which referred to the four as “The Million Dollar Quartet,” and its accompanying photo, appearing a Memphis Newspaper the day after, the session was largely forgotten. It was only after the sale of Sun Records decades later, when the new owner discovered a forgotten recording of the session, that its significance became apparent.
Those recordings, that jam session, and the four rock n’ roll legends involved became the inspiration for the Tony Award winning musical Million Dollar Quartet. It shares the music, spontaneity, and drama of what happened that day, as four future legends performed together for their first and last time.
Branson has over 100 live shows, offering a wide variety of quality entertainment, but there’s only one like the Million Dollar Quartet. It’s great story line, outstanding cast, timeless music that everyone knows, combine with the show’s unique set and great production to create an incredible entertainment experience for the whole family to enjoy together.
To do the music and a story line justice requires an awesome cast of talented performers. The cast of Million Dollar Quartet is just that and “then some.” Tyler K. Hunter as Elvis Presley, Cliff Wright as Johnny Cash, John Countryman as Jerry Lee Lewis, and Brad Waters as Carl Perkins, do a great job of sharing the music, spontaneity, and excitement of that night. They perform classics such “Great Balls of Fire,” “I’ll Walk the Line,” “Riders in the Sky,” “Hound Dog,” “Peace in the Valley,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” and many more. Watching them perform, in the show’s elaborate Sun Records Studio set, I felt, even if only for a moment, that I was getting a personal glimpse of what they actually shared together that night. It was awesome!
Lindsey Perenchio plays Dyanna, representing the girl accompanying Elvis that day. She adds her considerable musical talents to the musical repertoire of the jam session performing “Fever” and “I Hear You Knocking.” In addition, her character adds a special dimension and perspective to the dramatic aspects of the show, both from a potential romantic aspect to the more practical, when she interacts with the other characters as the story unfolds.
As timeless and wonderful as the music is, it is the storyline, the historical moment it describes and the way it is artfully woven into the musical tapestry surrounding it that makes this such an entertaining show. Matt Joyce as Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records, the man some call the “Father of rock n’ roll,” and the person who actually set the circumstances in motion that resulted in the jam session, does a superb job of dramatically narrating the story and tying its diverse elements together in a manner that kept me keenly invested throughout the entire performance.
The story’s filled with interesting antidotes and historical facts about not only what happened that day, but the artists involved, how the record industry worked at that time, and the early history of rock n’ roll. Among them is how the four musical icons came to be together that day for the impromptu jam session; the angst Carl Perkins, the old man of the group at 24, felt towards Elvis Presley over Blue Suede Shoes; why Johnny Cash was leaving Sun Records for Columbia Records; the answer to the question in everyone’s mind of why Phillips sold Elvis Presley’s contract to RCA for $40,000 in 1955; the jealousy some felt about the emphasis Phillips placed on Elvis Presley, and more. Watching the relationship between Jerry Lee Lewis, the brash outspoken rookie of the group, and the others evolve is a hoot.
It’s nonstop fun, drama, great music, and entertainment from beginning to end with no intermission. Oh, and a word to the wise, remember the admonition of Yogi Berra who said, “It ain’t over till it’s over. Don’t want to spoil the surprise, but “Wait for it” because it’s a grand ending to an absolutely delightful and completely entertaining show that ends all too quickly.
The Million Dollar Quartet‘s 2018 season runs from March 14 through December 30. For additional information or tickets for please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.