"Million Dollar Quartet" is the third production for which I've been taken behind the scenes. While I'm not a fan of any members of the quartet -- Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash -- I thought it would be fun to watch a musical take shape. It has been a blast.
The appeal, of course, is the music. If you don't know the story, Carl Perkins had a recording session with Sam Phillips at Sun Records on Dec. 4, 1956. Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis ended up joining him on the recording. Johnny Cash also stopped by that afternoon, but only for about ten minutes. So Cash's inclusion in the recording session in the show diverges from history.
This "memory play" in which Sam recalls his history with each of the singers apparently wasn't particularly well-received in New York. FST believes this is because it's a show best performed in a smallish venue like FST. With only 237 seats in the Gompertz Theater, audience members will feel a part of the recording session.
We learned about Sam Phillips' role in the start of rock 'n' roll. Phillips wanted to get the records of African-American artists on radio stations, but the public wasn't ready. So instead, he found white musicians with a similar sound. This led to an interesting discussion of music appropriation -- think white rappers and German raggae artists.
Phillips was known for wanting "perfection imperfection" in his musicians. He wanted the music to be real and gritty. The phrase "go cat, go" in "Blue Suede Shoes" was not originally in the lyrics. But it came out in the recording session and Phillips decided to keep it. (While on the topic, I also learned that "Blue Suede Shoes' was written--and first performed--by Carl Perkins. But Elvis hit TV with the song first on the "Ed Sullivan Show," so everyone considered it his song.)
Michelle Pruiett (Dyanne), Kroy Presley (Brother Joe)
and Joe Ditmeyer (Sam)
While FST has a strong track record with its actors, it's not because they're getting rich working there. As a smaller theater, FST has a LORT (League of Resident Theaters) D classification. On average, actors at FST make about $650/week (plus housing). I'm stating the obvious when I say that's not a lot of money. Jason shared that one actor got a barrista day job once his show had opened to supplement his income.
Brandyn Day (Jerry Lee), Hunter Brown (Fluke)
and Joe Boover (Elvis)
"Million Dollar Quartet" may not be the most thought-provoking show you'll see this season, but it will be lots of fun. (Have you gotten the sense yet how much I'm enjoying this class?) Stay tuned for more "behind the scenes."