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‘Million Dollar Quartet’ brings slice of music history to Bass Hall

Million Dollar Quartet

7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday.

Bass Hall




Posted 11:25am on Thursday, Mar. 07, 2013

FORT WORTH — At only $250,000 per star, this show is a bargain.

The national touring production of the Broadway show Million Dollar Quartet swiveled its hips into Bass Hall on Tuesday night to celebrate one of the most amazing chance meetings in rock ’n’ roll history in a joyous style.

This jukebox musical, which had a respectable 14-month run on the Great White Way starting in 2010, is very loosely based on a mostly accidental gathering at Memphis’ Sun Studio on Dec. 4, 1956, when Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis all showed up at the same time.

Their impromptu jamming and conversation was captured on tape (although it was not intended as a recording session and did not produce any releasable tracks in the traditional sense), a picture was snapped, and the whole affair was later dubbed “the Million Dollar Quartet” because of the high-dollar talent involved.

This show uses that occasion as an excuse to present a rock ’n’ roll concert featuring some of the biggest hits by those artists. The performers don’t all look like their subjects, but they do sound a lot like them. And that is what matters with this show.

There is an effort to create dramatic tension with some contrived storylines about the business relationships between the four stars and Sun Studio founder Sam Phillips. But these digressions, which have little or nothing to do with the reality of what happened that day, mainly just give the singers time to catch their breaths between numbers.

The singing members of the cast do an excellent job. David Elkins’ vocals particularly nail Johnny Cash (you can’t miss him — he’s the one in black). Cody Slaughter is sharply duck-billed and loosely jointed as Elvis, while also more than doing justice to his sound. (Another actor will be playing that role in several of the remaining performances.) James Barry offers some dazzling guitar work as Carl Perkins, to the point that you don’t care how little he looks or sounds like him.

But the real scene stealer is Ben Goddard as Jerry Lee Lewis, the new kid who had been a session player at Sun for only about a month when this meeting took place. He plays Lewis as an egotistical and swaggering loose cannon who makes an ideal court jester for the rock ’n’ roll royalty in the room. The portrayal jibes with history and the Lewis I met while covering music in Memphis.

The best acting that of Vince Nappo as Phillips, the studio owner and talent scout who launched the four men’s careers. After the curtain falls, it is not one of the performers but rather the audience who says, “Thanka. Thanka verra much, ladies and gentlemen.”

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