“Million Dollar Quartet” – ASU Gammage
This review aired on KBAQ June 7, 2012
BROADWAY’S “MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET” TRUDES INTO ASU GAMMAGE
“MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET”
Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
The recent Broadway theater season was weak. “Million Dollar Quartet,” one of last year’s Broadway successes, has trudged to ASU Gammage this week as part of its Broadway season. The show, soon to close off Broadway where it landed after a short Broadway run, only played about 300 New York performances. Unfortunately, what’s on stage here doesn’t give you a feel of the four big rock ‘n’ roll legends it features – Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. The problem is weak performances by the actors portraying these entertainers. These guys never convincingly become these giants. They are competent, sing agreeably, but they neither look nor sound like the stars they portray. None give in-depth acting performances so you never know these guys or what made them stars.
Few saw these singers in person but many saw them on television crooning their hits. What you see at ASU Gammage will make you wonder how these singers became legendary. The Eric Schaeffer staging is ordinary and writers Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux select a dull December 4, 1956 recording event when record impresario Sam Phillips brought these four guys together in his Sun Records Studios in Memphis. Nothing much happens as they sing and argue. They only occasionally mesh into the stars they were. While in this recording studio, the equipment was left on so years later historic recordings were released that have interest to followers of these entertainers. Since the performers are bland and don’t make these stars splash with sparkle and finesse, it’s a pretty dry session at ASU Gammage. There’s little to hold audience attention except the music and that’s mediocre.
Lee Ferris struts around as Carl Perkins, Derek Keeling is a bland wallflower Johnny Cash, Martin Kaye, while impressive on the piano as Jerry Lee Lewis, never comes across as the wacky performer Lewis was known to be. Cody Slaughter brings none of the rollicking swagger, sexual innuendo, or bravado to Elvis Presley in the single most disappointing performance. Christopher Ryan Grant makes nothing of Sam Phillips, and Kelly Lamont fades into the background as the female singer.
Fortunately, “Million Dollar Quartet” is a short 100 minutes without intermission. If the show had an intermission, much of the bored and disinterested audience would no doubt wander off. Even if the music and entertainers are favorites, the weak performances and uninteresting staging force “Million Dollar Quartet” to sputter, drag, and bore. It’s not worth the high admission prices charged to see a touring Broadway musical at ASU Gammage. “Million Dollar Quartet” continues through Sunday, June 10. For tickets, call the Ticketmaster box office at 800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.