"Rock 'n roll will always be
our ticket to the end
It will go down in history,
just you wait, my friend
Rock 'n roll will always be,
it'll go down in history..." Danny & The Juniors
Rock 'N' Roll is here to stay! Here's the proof: "Million Dollar Quartet."
Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash set the stage (along with many other pioneers of the genre) for what would become one of the most influential musical revolutions of the 20th Century -- or any century for that matter -- the birth of rock 'n' roll.
Picture it. It's December 4, 1956. The place: Sun Records' storefront studio in Memphis, TN. The "Father of Rock 'n' Roll," Sam Phillips, who discovered all four musical icons, unite Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl and Johnny for an impromptu recording session that is now labeled "one of the greatest rock 'n' roll jam sessions of all time."
The good news is the Tony Award winning Broadway musical, "Million Dollar Quartet" -- taking a turn at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. through Oct. 6 -- recreates that magical night taking the audience on a nostalgic musical journey with a brilliant performance by actor Vince Nappo, in the body of Sam Phillips, who shares powerful behind-the-scenes revelations of "broken promises, secrets, betrayal and celebrations."
"Million Dollar Quartet" features an extraordinary cast which includes James Barry (Carl Perkins), John Countryman (Jerry Lee Lewis), Tyler Hunter (Elvis Presley) and Scott Moreau (Johnny Cash). Their renditions of each icon's signature songs: "Blue Suede Shoes," "Ring of Fire," Great Balls of Fire," "That's All Right," "I Walk the Line," "Hound Dog," "Folsom Prison Blues" and "Whole Lotta Shakin ' Goin' On" leaves the audience breathless... and panting for more, more, more!
Let's put it this way: It is simply not possible to sit still during the electric re-enactment of those classic Rockabilly songs.
John Countryman, 24, who almost steals the show because he makes that wired-up singing legend/piano-player madman Jerry Lee Lewis seem so needy and cute, could not be happier working in a musical that celebrates rock 'n' roll. "Rock 'n' roll is a form of release for me," Countryman tells The Huffington Post. "When I'm playing a song or really getting into something that I'm listening to, there is a sense of reckless abandon that's hard to find anywhere else. I have listened to rock 'n' roll since I was a little kid. My mom always played the oldies stations when I was growing up. It is something that I have always loved." (Forgot to ask him how many years his mama made him take piano lessons. Incredible!! JLL needs to find this kid and take notes.)
How does one channel a superstar country artist like Johnny Cash? "It's amazing!" admits Scott Moreau, who got a noticeable gasp from the audience when he opened with Cash's classic "Folsom Prison Blues." (Johnny, are you watching from above?) "I've been a fan for a long time, and every time I walk out on that stage I pay tribute to the Man in Black the best that I can. It's a great challenge to be able to portray Johnny early in his career, before his stardom and the vision/idea of the icon that everyone has today. ... I hesitate to say I may be one of the biggest Johnny Cash fans you will ever meet. I actually pursued the show because Cash was in it."
James Barry, 34, truly makes us wish we had gotten to know Carl Perkins better along the way. The singer and guitar player researched his role by listening to Perkins' video clips of his early TV appearances and reading as much as he could about him. "I try to channel his spirit and style," Barry told us prior to going on stage. "As a guitarist I hold him in extremely high esteem, and I am very hard on myself concerning my own playing. I have learned a lot about finesse and restraint from his playing. He is one of the most tasteful guitarists in rock history. I have very big blue suede shoes to fill." (Perfect fit.)
So playing the king of rock 'n' roll has to be intimidating one would think. "It feels great," says 23-year-old Tyler Hunter who nailed the Presley persona -- and THAT voice. "I really enjoy it, as I originated as an Elvis fan. It's an honor to portray him every single night. I studied some of his movies and clips of his interviews. I wouldn't necessarily say that I have him 'down' but I try my best to be as authentic as possible. I always thought Elvis was cool and there was definitely one point when I sat back and said 'I wish I could be like him' but I never thought I would get this kind of opportunity." (Opportunity obviously knocked and thank God Tyler Hunter was there to answer the door!)
The bottom line is: See this show! You will have more fun -- as David Letterman used to say -- than humans should be allowed to have. Rock 'n' roll will never die. Never!For more information on "Million Dollar Quartet" and to check out when it will be coming to a venue near you, go here: www.milliondollarquartetlive.com