Beyond some joshin’ and catchin’ up, the four good ol’ country and rock-and-roll legends who converge on a singular day in 1956 don’t have much of import to say to one another. So it’s fortunate that in CAA Theatre’s seeded Million Dollar Quartet, they mostly let the music do the talkin’.
Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis are the singers who gather in the Memphis studio of record producer Sam Phillips in this spirited jukebox diversion, buffed to a pleasing gloss by both the director and musical arranger.
Based in part on an actual event, the show has no delusions of grandeur: It presents itself as a straight-up portrait of an extraordinary jam session.
The musicianship sells this entertainment. If the rockabilly rhythms of Perkins or the proto-rocker antics of Lewis don’t set your heart to palpitating, then Million Dollar Quartet may be lost on you.
The calculation is that fans of early rock-and-roll and idolaters of Presley and Cash are of an age and economic level to fill the Nederlander’s pews. And for them, the musical will feel at times like a throbbing worship service.
The script by finds the four singers — all of whom had been signed to contracts by the prescient Phillips (Hunter Foster) — at various stages of their careers: Presley is a Hollywood phenom and already out of the Phillips orbit. Lewis, an unknown, is just entering it. Perkins and Cash occupy uncomfortable middle ground, chafing to leave Phillips to take advantage of more lucrative record offers. Resentment festers, too, in the heart of Perkins, whose “Blue Suede Shoes” was co-opted by Presley.
In the show’s biting playfulness imbedded with consciously laid-back style, the conflict remains on simmer; the guys would rather sing than fight. They take turns playing for each other, traditional spirituals and Chuck Berry’s “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” among the musical’s 22 tunes.
MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux December December 12 – January 7, 2018 PANASONIC THEATRE, 651 Yonge Street, Toronto TICKETS $59.00 – $89.00 www.mirvish.com 416-872-1212