Million Dollar Quartet Christmas – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Do you need a little inspiration and motivation to get ready for the December 25th holiday that is just around the red, gold and green corner? Might you like to enthusiastically greet Santa Claus and even Rudolph? If you answered yes, then Ivoryton Playhouse has just the perfect solution for your energy and burst of excitement: “Million Dollar Quartet Christmas” lighting up the Playhouse until Sunday, December 17. Wow, is it wonderful!

Are you still proud that your music tastes are stuck decades back in the 1950’s? Do you delight in singers with singing guitars, champions of the ivory keys, swivel hips and wild gyrations? Is yesterday your favorite place for your listening and dancing pleasures? If so, then do I have a musical marathon designed just for you. The date is December 4, 1956 and the sacred place is Memphis, Tennessee at a small recording studio named Sun Records run by Sam Phillips. On that memorable day four icons of the music world wander in and Mr. Phillips, the Father of Rock ‘n Roll, realizes the significance of that event.

Ivoryton Playhouse invites you to be front and center at Colin Escott’s “Million Dollar Quartet Christmas” rocking the rafters when Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley perform an impromptu jam session, one that was smokin’ hot and unforgettable. “Million Dollar Quartet Christmas” recreates that one and only legendary day in the history of rock ‘n roll, this time around moving it seamlessly and memorably to the final days leading up to December 25.

Think of it as a personal playlist of your favorite holiday hits as these great tunes come tumbling out. Listen to “Home for the Holidays,” “Blue Christmas,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” “Santa Baby,” “Ring of Fire,” “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Run, Rudolph, Run” and so many more. Even when the show seems to be over, these guys return for a special additional Christmas concert, all dressed up in their holiday finest.

Carl Perkins (Sam Sherwoodl) had come to Sun Records that day with his brother Jay (Mark Gehret) and Fluke (Dakota Singerline) as back up and Sam Phillips, (Ben Hope) the owner of Sun, added Jerry Lee Lewis, (JP Coletta) a recent acquisition, to the mix as pianist. When Elvis Presley (Daniel Durston) dropped by with his girlfriend Dyanne (Margaret Dudasik), he added his voice to the kettle and it was the final arrival of Johnny Cash (Scott Moreau) that made the spicy cider’s brew complete.

These phenomenally talented guys, all at different stages of musical success, sat down and stood up and sang like a group of old friends, without rehearsals or formal plans, and Cowboy Jack Clement, the engineer, was smart enough to record it. There were a few jealousies and recriminations among the four, but music was the uniting element that made the day so memorable. It happened that day and never again. Mixed in to the great music were the memories each had of the holiday, going way back to their childhoods, when getting an orange in their stocking was a blessing.

Country music, rockabilly and rock ‘n roll merge and marry as these fellows sing just for the pure pleasure of the sound. For Sam Phillips, these four men were like his four sons and this show reveals a lot about their relationships, where they came from and where they were going. Sam gave each of them their chance and then promoted them to fame and success. On this day he even gives them each a personal gift. It is a sensational staged recreation of the actual event. Director Katie Barton wraps the excitement like a sacred Christmas present, with Ben Hope providing musical direction, on a realistic studio set designed by Martin Scott Marchitto. Jonathan White’s sound rocks everything up to the star on the Christmas tree.

For tickets ($60, seniors $55, students and children $25), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Prepare for an explosion and fireworks as this quartet hits all the right notes, with fancy flying fingers on guitars, bass, drums and piano, and voices close to heaven. Come and enjoy every perfect sound. You will surely be ready to embrace that December holiday with happiness and joy and no one will ask you if you’ve been naughty or nice.