"Million Dollar Quartet" is what's known as a jukebox musical. The recipe involves familiar hit records -- recorded decades ago by famous singers who've either retired or passed on. The songs are supported by a little bit of airy storytelling -- just enough narrative to lend context as the show moves briskly on to the next song.
The show is based on an actual session in 1956, which brought together Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. The connecting bits mostly involve ego clashes - these guys were young, headstrong and impulsive. And we hear a steady stream of anecdotes from their record producer Sam Phillips, who functions as the master of ceremonies - although to my mind, he breaks in a little too often.
But mostly, this show presents one song after another - about two dozen in all, with the famous figures taking turns singing the lead. It starts with rockabilly star Carl Perkins
("Blue Suede Shoes")
Perkins wrote "Blue Suede Shoes," though the cover version by Elvis is better known nowadays. Then there's the wild kid at the keyboard, Jerry Lee Lewis.
("The Wild One")
In strolls a man in black, who sings a tune with local connections, "Folsom Prison Blues."
("Folsom Prison Blues")
Johnny Cash, of course. And then there's that guy with the swivelling hips…
Elvis comes with a girlfriend, who sings two numbers just to break up the all-male parade.
Each of these singing actors also plays an instrument, and they're all solid musicians. And the performances feel close to the raw, bracing, energetic sound of the originals.
"Million Dollar Quartet" isn't exactly a concert, and it's not precisely a play. But it is undoubtedly a very fun show to watch - the performances are convincing, and the tunes from the early days of rock and roll will get you moving…. Even if you were a baby back in 1956 rather than a teenage rebel.
Broadway Sacramento presents Million Dollar Quartet through Sunday, April 22nd.