Tuesday January 23rd 2018

“Million Dollar Quartet”

Highly Recommended ***** When I read that Paramount Theatre was planning to do “Million Dollar Quartet” as part of their 2017/2018 Season, I was surprised. After all, this is a very intimate “little” piece that has always been in a “boutique” or “Black-Box” venue. I recall the opening at The Goodman (in the very intimate Owen space) back in 2008. It was a tribute to “Rock and Roll” that was a fun evening of hearing four very talented young men become the famous (perhaps, even better, infamous) quartet, that came from Sun Records back in the early days of the “genre”.

It was so loved and highly rated that they immediately found a home in a larger venue, The Apollo, where it remained for years. Now, this “small” show was being offered at the much larger Paramount. How could they pull that off? Tonight, I sat and watched (and marveled at) their production, I realized that once again Jim Corti (the master of musical theater direction) had indeed done it again! He had taken this “small” piece to a greater level from start to end ( I will tell you more about the end later) than all the previous productions that Chicago has seen.

For those who do not know the story, “Million Dollar Quartet” with a book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, based on the original concept by Mutrux, was inspired by the four artists who are portrayed in the story, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, as they tell the story  of a chance evening in Memphis Tennessee, at the office of Sun Records, where they all recorded, on December 4th, 1956.  It is a fun-filled two hours plus of amazing music in a jam session that took place that night and because of this show, will live on for generations to come.

Let me say a bit about the people of Aurora and their love for this venue. THEY ARE AMAZING! Each visit, I take the time to speak with residents about their love of theater and how they feel about being a part of the Chicago theater community. They are always glad to mention that they love what Corti and Tim Rater have done for them. Aurora is the second largest city in Illinois and until The Paramount and these men brought this theater to life, very little was done theater-wise to bring the community out. The “locals” love this theater and will do anything they can to make each show as strong as the director does! I for one, thank the community for their attitude. It has a very positive effect!

 

Now, back to the production. The set (Kevin Depinet) is much larger than the original allowing a real recording studio to be seen and look effective. Corti has even added another player , Jessie Pinnick as Marion Kiesler as the sound person in the recording booth. Nicholas Harazin takes on the role of Sam Phillips , the  man who discovered all of these talents, and is also a sort of narrator and historian. He started off appearing to be to young, but after a few scenes, I found him to be ideal as he truly became Phillips. The four “stars” are played to perfection by: Bill Scott Sheets as Cash ( I swear he sounds exactly like him), Adam Wesley Brown as Carl Perkins, Kavan Hashemian as Elvis and the highly energetic Gavin Rohrer as Jerry Lee Lewis. I must say that I thought the original actor/musician at The Goodman, who later did the Apollo and then went to Broadway was amazing, BUT Roher is bound to get a Jeff nomination for this one. It is worth the ticket price just to watch his final number!

 

Speaking of numbers, the music in this show- WOW!  “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Matchbox”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, “Memories are Made of This”, “Down By The Riverside” (in a chilling quartet that ends act one sending chills up your spine), “Sixteen Tons”, “I Walk The Line”, “Great Balls of Fire”, and here is something to pay heed to. When you think the show is over, do not leave! There will be four numbers, one by each of these men that will knock your sox off- :Hound Dog”, “Ghost Riders In The Sky”, “See You Later Alligator” and “A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” (like you have never seen it before )!

I do not want to forget the musicians in the show. Besides the four main characters, who all play, there is a drummer, Scott Simon and a base player, who does amazing things with his bass, Zach Lentino. There is one more

character in the play, Dyanne, Elvis’s girl (Courtney Mack is dynamite) , who also sings “Fever” and a rockin’ “I Hear You Knockin'”. She is terrific. Kory Danielson handled the musical direction and the other tech aspects of the show which were about as perfect as one could hope for were done by: Wigs/hair/make-up by Katie Cordts, lighting (Jesse Klug), sound (Adama Rosenthal), props ( Amanda Relaford) and stage management by Maggie O’Donnell.

“Million Dollar Quartet” will continue to play at the Paramount Theatre located at 23 E. Galena Street in Aurora through October 29th

with performances as follows:

 

Wednesdays  1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Thursdays  7 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  3 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Sundays  1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $36- $64 and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 1 -630-896-6666 or at http://www.ParamounAurora.com

Valet parking is available at the door ($11) and there is street parking (mostly metered but after hours free).

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Million Dollar Quartet”  THIS IS ONE YOU SHOULD NOT MISS!!!!

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