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The Orion

Million Dollar Quartet is a jam session to remember

The cast of Million Dollar Quartet on their national tour. Photo courtesy of Chico Performances.

Who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall during an impromptu jam session featuring Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley?

That is exactly what happened during the Chico performance of Million Dollar Quartet, a Tony Award wining Broadway musical which was brought to life on the Laxson Auditorium stage Monday night.

The musical is the extraordinary true story of what happened on December 4, 1956, when four of rock ‘n roll’s famous icons came together for a recording session. It was the first and last time these legends were in the same room.

Who was behind one of the greatest jam sessions?

Sam Phillips, the “father of rock ‘n roll” at Sun Records in Memphis. It is Phillips (Bryan Langlitz) who narrates the musical giving insights under blue lighting on how he first came to find these stars.

“It’s not every day I get a million dollar quartet in my studio,” said Philips.

What started out as a session to to find Carl Perkins (Gabe Bowling) the next great hit turns into something else as the door opens to find Lewis, Cash and Presley joining in.

The musical allows people a glimpse in the past. To be a witness to an event in history that only a select few saw and heard.

Every performance shined with each star embodying their counterpart. The simplest details such as fingers moving along keys, the way someone held their instrument and even some raunchy dance moves gave the musical an realistic edge to it.

The night was filled with back to back of many rock hits that the audience knew very well. They even had certain people mouthing the words. The song list included “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “I Walk The Line,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Match Box,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Hound Dog,” and many more.

One of the first songs performed by the great Johnny Cash (Scott Moreau) was Folsom Prison Blues which had most of the audience clapping and cheering. The way he held his guitar was almost identical to the way Cash stood on stage.

Some of the musical’s comedic lines came from the star of the piano, Jerry Lee Lewis (Colte Julian) who kicks his feet and smashes his fingers all along the keys while sprouting out sarcastic remarks.

The last scene had the audience silent. As Sam takes his camera out to capture the moment, flashbulbs flickered as a screen slowly lowers from the ceiling to show the real photograph of the four in their first and last appearance.

In the epilogue, all four performers dawned shiny colorful jackets to perform one last time for Chico. The audience couldn’t help but stand up and cheer.

Watching the members of the quartet jumping on the instruments and having a great time singing, it was hard not to smile and dance with them.

One of the things that just didn’t work was the stand alone actress who came in as Elvis’s girlfriend. She was, at times, distracting and during the last half of the musical seemed out of place. Besides that one minor flaw, Million Dollar Quartet shined like a brand new penny.

It was an extraordinary night for the people of Chico who had the privilege to watch magic being made by some truly remarkable stars of the theater.

The last thing audiences heard before the musical finally came to a close was something familiar: “Elvis has left the building.”

Erin Vierra can be reached at [email protected] or @gingersmurf85 on Twitter.

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