Actor’s Playhouse is offering a seasonal twist on the winning formula responsible for the theatre’s two past successful runs of the play Million Dollar Quartet with a production of its spinoff, Million Dollar Quartet Christmas. To those unfamiliar, both the original musical and this holiday variant are fictionalizations of a real-life incident in which four rock and roll music legends—Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and the one and only Elvis Presley— end up, mostly by happenstance, holding an impromptu jam session that was then recorded by their entrepreneurial manager Sam Phillips.
Though playing these larger than life figures is an undoubtedly difficult task, actors Dominique Scott, Jeremy Sevelovitz, Eddie Clendening, and Sky Seals do an admirable job of imitating these iconic entertainers, and could only ever be called over the top in the best way possible. Most notably, Scott’s manic energy and enthusiasm in the role of Jerry Lee Lewis made his numbers a particular joy to behold, though all four certainly held their own both vocally and in the creation of their respective personas.
The cast also included Gregg Weiner as Phillips, projecting the appropriate gravitas as the man who really “runs the show,” as one character puts it. That character would be the last of the show’s main six, a girlfriend of Elvis’s named Dyanne, who is played by Lindsey Corey.
Though Corey plays her character to the hilt and does get a few chances to show off her chops when joining in on the play’s musical festivities, it was hard not to ascertain from her tight-fitting red dress (which, combined with her red wig, was also oddly evocative of Annie) and conspicuously sultry dance moves that the flirtatious character’s main purpose was to infuse some eye-candy into the otherwise all-male cast.
The show’s onstage musicians, drummer David Sonnenborn and bass player Jonny Bowler, are also given character names as part of the show’s record-studio setting but have only a few passing lines, though their skillful musicianship is essential to show’s success. After all, though a thin plot exists that provides some insight into each artist’s career and background while providing the occasional moment of poignancy, it’s also clear that it primarily exists to thread together the show’s nearly 20 musical numbers, which are the obvious high point of this holiday spectacular.
While you’ll occasionally hear a non-Christmas themed hit interspersed among these tunes, such as in a particularly compelling rendition of “Ring Of Fire” by Seals, it’s songs like “Blue Christmas,” “Santa Baby,” and “Silent Night” that mostly take precedence. Since the original Million Dollar Quartet recording session did take place in December and a few Christmas songs can indeed be found on the recording, there’s also at least some theoretical justification for this themed twist, though perhaps not enough that I’d ever find myself choosing Million Dollar Quartet Christmas over a more thought-provoking work of theatre.