Million Dollar Quartet | The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Plan on seeing this phenomenal jukebox musical more than once!

In front of a dimly lit Sun Records studio, Sam Phillips (James Ludwig) strolls onstage. He shares the historical significance of the spectacle about to unfold behind him: “On December 4, 1956, one man brought Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis , Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley to play together for the first and only time.”

As you may have guessed, Phillips, the founder of Sun Records, is speaking about himself here. He’d invested in these boys, given them a chance when no one else would. He’d had no choice but to sell Elvis (Ari McKay Wilford) to RCA to keep Sun Records afloat, but he has every intention of ensuring he doesn’t lose another artist to a big label. As the show opens, he has big plans for Carl Perkins (John Michael Presney), who is due for another hit; Johnny Cash (Sky Seals), who he intends to tie down with a new contract; and his newest discovery, piano prodigy Jerry Lee Lewis (Dominique Scott), who has a lot of potential if he can learn to stop running his mouth and find it in his heart to be a little more modest. Of course, the bigger labels aren’t only after Phillips’ artists, they’re after him as well.

I’ve seen Million Dollar Quartet three times now at three different theaters, and I’ve absolutely loved it every single time. It’s a solid show of extraordinary music intertwined with comical moments and conflict that tugs at your heart. It’s everything I want in a musical, and the fact that the players aren’t fictional makes it all the more powerful.

The Repertory Theatre has assembled an astounding group of actors for this production. Considering how naturally and exceptionally they performed, I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see that several of the cast members have starred in this show in the past, including Ryah Nixon, who plays Elvis’ girlfriend Dyanne. This is not a group of hokey celebrity impersonators. They’re all extremely talented actors and musicians—make no mistake, everyone is singing and playing live—who aren’t merely “impersonating” these legends; they’re passionately and convincingly filling their shoes so flawlessly that it’s easy to imagine that you’re truly sitting in the same room as musical giants.

Although Jerry Lee Lewis was still very much a newcomer when this impromptu jam session was held, he’s easily the star of this show thanks to Dominique Scott’s superb performance. Boy does that man know how to work a stage! Not to mention, he’s one of the most exceptional pianists I’ve had the pleasure of watching play. You need to see his skills for yourself, but let’s just say, he’s got tricks. The cellist, Jay (Eric Scott Anthony), is full of surprises as well.

Adam Koch’s scenic design is perfect. We get a glimpse of the exterior of Sun Studios, which was formerly an auto shop before Phillips renovated it, and the walls pull back to reveal the two-story recording studio tucked inside. It’s simple yet has plenty of small business charm. I also want to give a shout out to Lauren T. Roark’s costume design, Kirk Bookman’s lighting, and Bart Fasbender’s spectacular sound design.

Don’t miss your chance to see this show! (And when you do go, don’t be too quick to gather your belongings when it seems like the show is over. Hint, hint!) The Repertory Theatre has had a phenomenal 50th season, and I have no doubt that this show will leave audiences anxiously awaiting the start of season 51. | Megan Washausen

Million Dollar Quartet runs through April 9. For ticket information, click here

Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

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