The crowd of nearly 1,500, visibly older than usual for a Broadway tour, ate it up.
And why not? A giant plateful of hits from the 1950s, served up by a talented bunch of musicians who know how to dish good old rock 'n' roll, blues and gospel, still satisfies nearly 60 years later.
“Million Dollar Quartet” stomped, swiveled and boogied its way into the Orpheum Theater on Tuesday for a weeklong stay. The show re-creates the night — Dec. 4, 1956 — when Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley jammed together in Sam Phillips' Sun Records studio in Memphis.
Well, sort of re-creates. The playlist isn't exactly the same, and legendary record producer Phillips (Vince Nappo) frequently interrupts the music to directly address the audience, filling in the details of these music titans' careers. And I'm guessing Dyanne, Elvis' girl for the night, was invented to make things a little more interesting.
What do we care how historically accurate it is? We weren't there.
But after the show you might wish you had been.
That's because pretty, vivacious Kelly Lamont, as Dyanne, injects some serious heat into songs like “Fever.” And Cody Ray Slaughter looks and moves and warbles an awful lot like Elvis. And Scott Moreau sings in a way-deep bass, just like we remember Johnny Cash. And Lee Ferris, as Carl Perkins, plays a wicked-hot guitar all night.
But, for my money, the guy who leaves everything up there on the stage is John Countryman as Jerry Lee Lewis. Countryman the actor is hilarious as ambitious, ego-addled Lewis. Countryman the piano player convincingly echoes Lewis' sound and energy and wildness at the keyboards. And Countryman the singer smokes “Great Balls of Fire,” even when the script turns talky, chopping the song into three parts.
Yeah, they can all sing — though I'd swear I heard pitch problems the first time Elvis crooned a bit of Dean Martin's “Memories Are Made of This.” But he immediately followed with “That's All Right,” and it was — more than.
Some of the biggest crowd-pleasers blend the four guys' voices in smooth, tight harmony, as on “Down by the Riverside,” or even five parts with Dyanne on “Peace in the Valley.” Nice.
But the big-hit solos were also popular. Moreau nailed “Folsom Prison Blues,” Ferris got the crowd rocking with “My Babe,” Slaughter peaked with an encore of “Hound Dog” and Countryman was a kick no matter what he was pounding out on that piano.
I liked the music a lot better than the script, which felt too much like a history lesson or conflict used as plot device. The show almost grinds to a halt when Cash announces he's leaving Sun Records. But it did have some great laugh lines, often at Jerry Lee's expense. This isn't exceptional theater — but it is great rock 'n' roll.
Upright bass player Corey Kaiser and drummer Patrick Morrow add a lot to the hot instrumentals.
Be sure to hit the restroom before the show. It's 1 hour and 50 minutes long, without intermission.
MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET
What: Broadway touring musical
Where: Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St.
When: 7:30 p.m. tonight and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $35 to $90
Information: 402-345-0606, toll-free 1-866-434-8587, online at ticketomaha.com or at the Holland Center box office.