Director Jewels: Million Dollar Quartet National Tour at Kansas City Starlight Theatre {Review}

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Million Dollar Quartet National Tour at Kansas City Starlight Theatre {Review}

Disclosure: I received press passes to attend this event. No other compensation was received and all opinions expressed are my own.


Summer in Kansas City can only mean one thing - it's time to spend a few nights at Starlight Theatre. The outdoor venue's 65th season kicked off last night at a fast pace, bringing to the stage under the stars to life with bright colors and the upbeat music of the national touring production of Million Dollar Quartet.

The company of the National Tour of Million Dollar Quartet. (Photo by Jeremy Daniel.)

This Tony Award-Winning Broadway Musical is inspired by a true story of one special night in December 1956 when four music legends were all under the same roof. There were many cheers and whistles in the mostly middle-aged crowd who welcomed the characters of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash to Kansas City.

Colte Julian as Jerry Lee Lewis, Gabe Bowling as Carl Perkins, Jacob Rowley as Elvis Presley,
and Scott Moreau as Johnny Cash in the National Tour of Million Dollar Quartet.
(Photo by Jeremy Daniel.)

While I have to admit up front that there's a bit of a generational gap for me with this show, I was still able to follow the story and pick out most of the famous tunes (thank you, show choir) as the night skipped by. Did a few inside jokes go over my head? Yes, for sure. But it was completely adorable to watch the crowd jump, dance, and jive right along with songs like Blue Suede Shoes (which was apparently actually written by Carl Perkins - not Elvis), Down by the Riverside, and See You Later Alligator.

It was evident that there was a great deal of effort put forth from each of the actors, who not only had to learn quirks of the individual they portrayed, but also played their own instruments throughout the show. A singer who can also play is sometimes a hard-sought commodity, and this show offers such delightful roles for those who are up to the challenge. I can scarcely even call what Colte Julian (Jerry Lee Lewis) did to the stage piano "playing" - watching his hands made me think of an intricate dance. I have ten years of piano under my belt, and my hat's off to him. Fantastic performance.

Scott Moreau as Johnny Cash in the National Tour of Million Dollar Quartet.
(Photo by Jeremy Daniel.)

Running at about 90 minutes with no intermission, the script based on the events of December 4, 1956 at Sun Records seems a little contrived at times, but the cast moves amiably through the piece and the musical numbers follow each other in quick enough succession to avoid any serious qualms.

The cast is strong and offers good stage chemistry (the constant bickering of Colte Julian (Jerry Lee Lewis) and Gabe Bowling (Carl Perkins) had the audience in stitches most of the night), while still giving believable portrayals of the music icons they represent. I am most familiar with the music of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, and have to say that I was fully sold on Jacob Rowley (Elvis) and Scott Moreau (Johnny) by the end of the night. The small supporting cast lent itself well to the stars - shout out to Chuck Zayas (Jay Perkins, Bass Drummer) and Patrick Morrow (Fluke - Drummer), who both played music in the background nearly the entire show. Bryan Langlitz was a great character as Sun Records owner Sam Phillips. I wasn't convinced by Laura Obenauf as Dyanne - until she started singing I Hear You Knocking in the second half of the show. I was glad the piece contained a song that perfectly showcased her powerhouse voice capability!

I wouldn't particularly recommend the show for very young audiences as there was a fair amount of smoking and mild language scattered throughout, but for an older crowd or mature teen, this show presents a very interesting glance back in time at the start of Rock 'n Roll.

Jacob Rowley as Elvis Presley in the National Tour of Million Dollar Quartet.
(Photo by Jeremy Daniel.)

Tickets for Million Dollar Quartet at Starlight Theatre are on sale now for $12 to $92. Tickets
are available online at Starlight Theatre, by calling 816.363.STAR (7827) or at the Starlight
box office at 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, MO 64132. All performances begin at 8 p.m.

Thanks to Starlight Theatre for providing my tickets to the show. I received no other compensation and all views expressed are my own. For more information, you can read my Disclosure Policy.

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