REVIEW: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at the Arvada Center

by Mona Lott

Four musical legends came together in an impromptu recording session at a small recording studio in 1956 and they were called The Million Dollar Quartet. Now in 2021 and facing what hopefully are the final days of Covid, The Arvada Center brings four actors together who could easily be called The Million Dollar Cast.

Fifteen months of social distancing and mask wearing made the return to live theater, on a cool summer night under the stars all that much sweeter.  Somehow even a flop would have been warmly greeted at this point, but The Million Dollar Quartet doesn’t flop, it soars. This cast excels in their performances, portraying Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley with reverence, skill and charm.

J.P.  Coletta tackles the effusive role of Jerry Lee Lewis with ease and right from the get go, he demonstrates that he has the musical chops and acting talent to bring Lewis to life. Sam Sherwood’s portrayal of Carl Perkins is the perfect balance to Coletta’s Lewis and they spar off for much of the shows funniest moments. The man in black makes an unassuming entrance,  but Andrew Frace does not disappoint as Johnny Cash. He brings confidence and humility to the role and anchors the show with spot on vocals.

With the proliferation of cheesy, Vegas, Elvis impersonators, Nick Voss is tasked with the challenge of making his portrayal recognizable without falling into that Vegas trap. He succeeds by focusing on the quiet, shy Elvis and by coming alive and adopting those Elvis poses only during the musical numbers. Elvis brought a “mystery” girl with him that day and Suzanna Champion makes Dyanne a legend within her own performance. Champion’s voice almost stops the show when the boys convince her to sing. She smolders in her rendition of,  Fever and makes no apology for her presence  among these legends. Her performance of, I Hear You Knocking seals the deal and she does indeed stop the show.

Zachary Andrew keeps the show moving, providing much of the shows narrative as music producer Sam Phillips. Sean Case on drums and Ian Haebele on upright base round out the band rocking on one big hit after another. Make no mistake, this cast is not only performing these characters, but they are also singing and playing there own accompaniment with a proficiency that excels in it’s own right.

The harmonizing is beautiful in this show,  especially on,  Peace In The Valley and the voices blend in what is indeed a million dollar sound. Saving the best for last, Coletta finally gives us Great Balls Of Fire channeling Lewis with all the acrobatics at the piano, and Voss gives us Hound Dog eliciting screams from the crowd. We get, I Walk The Line from Johnny and See You Later Alligator from Carl, satisfying much of the crowds ferocious appetite.

Rod A Lansberry has another hit on his hands for The Arvada Center and after the last fifteen months, Million Dollar Quartet is more than enough reason to venture out and collectively experience a talented cast in a lively, fun show bringing these legendary musicians back to life.

MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET is delighting audiences now through July 2nd. For tickets or more information, contact the Arvada Center Box Office by calling 720-898-7200 or online at arvadacenter.org.

 

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