Broadway World Review

MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at The John W. Engeman Theater

January 28, 2020
By Melissa Giordano

Now in the middle of their spectacular fourteenth season, the John W. Engeman Theatre continues to dazzle with an excellent rendition of Million Dollar Quartet. It is a dramatization of a real jam session between Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. The Engeman’s terrific incarnation of the jukebox musical by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott runs through March 1st at the exquisite Northport venue.

Among the top-notch cast is Sam Sherwood as Carl Perkins, Sky Seals as Johnny Cash, Noel Carey as Jerry Lee Lewis, and Sean Michael Buckley as Elvis. They are all excellent, but please don’t expect them to look exactly like the legends. It is apparent who each gentleman portrays. The historic jam session that evening was arranged by Sam Phillips, portrayed by Luke Darnell. Sam is the head of Sun Records and noted as a founder of Rock and Roll.

Sarah Ellis is also superb as Dyanne, Elvis’ girlfriend. The rest of the brilliant cast is completed by Corey Kaiser, who portrays Brother Jay (Carl Perkins’ brother who plays the bass for recording sessions) and David Sonneborn, who portrays Fluke, on drums. It is refreshing and amazing to see that the cast is the orchestra. The interaction makes it apparent they’re enjoying the time in this show.

As for Mr. Andrews’ creative team, Jordan Janota puts his “spin” on Sun Studio. In a stationary set, an elevated studio sits upstage with microphones and other studio equipment making up the jam session floor. Enhanced beautifully by John Burkland’s lighting and Dustin Cross’ costumes, the production is truly gorgeous.

You will not be disappointed when you catch a performance at the Engeman. And, you’ll be dancing in your seats with the music that includes “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, “Hound Dog”, and “Great Balls Of Fire”. The stunning theatre, a heart-tugging story, and a top-notch cast make for a thrilling night of theatre.

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The Theatre Guide Review

Million Dollar Quartet – John W. Engeman Theater – Theatre Review

January 27, 2020
By Kristen Weyer

When: December 4th, 1956. Where: Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. What: The impromptu jam session of four legendary musicians. This famous evening would mark the only time in history that Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis ever played together, inspiring the musical Million Dollar Quartet, now playing at The Engeman Theater. This fabulous musical, with a book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, is directed and choreographed here by Keith Andrews.

This show is predominantly an incredible concert given by these four artists. It does however, contain an overarching plotline: the decision over the fate of Sun Records. The show is narrated by music producer, and Sun Records owner, Sam Phillips. Sam address the audience at numerous moments throughout the production describing the events of, and leading up to, that evening. At the same time, he is agonizing over an important offer from RCA Records to buy Sun Records and have Sam come work for them. While he struggles to decide what to do, we are introduced to the four icons. We are informed of fascinating backgrounds and history, and given an insider’s view to the events of that night all the while being treated to a plethora of amazing music.

This cast does a marvelous job, performing beautifully with stunning vocal and musical talent. They are: Sam Sherwood as Carl Perkins, Sky Seals as Johnny Cash, Noel Carey as Jerry Lee Lewis and Sean Michael Buckley as Elvis Presley, with Luke Darnell as Sam Phillips, Sarah Ellis as the lovely Dyanne, David Sonneborn as drummer Fluke and Corey Kaiser as Brother Jay. They give wonderful characterization, with intelligent portrayals and accurate comedic timing. Also, rest assured that you will not be subjected to painful and over-the-top impersonations in this performance. Sherwood, Seals, Carey and Buckley portray these iconic figures with an ease and grace that makes it easy to believe them, while stopping short of full impersonations. Don’t worry though, Elvis still says “Thank you very much”.

Don’t overlook the other characters in this show though, and indeed their performances are such that you won’t be able to. Luke Darnell plays Sam Phillips with expressiveness and charm. Elvis’ girlfriend, Dyanne, is portrayed by Sarah Ellis whose stunning vocals happily impress more than once. The recording studio musicians playing “back-up” for the four stars are Carl Perkins’ brother, Jay, on bass, and Fluke on the drums, portrayed with talent by Corey Kaiser and David Sonneborn.

A nicely accurate set by designer Jordan Janota, and attractive and time period appropriate costume design by Dustin Cross compliments the action. Sound Design by Laura Shubert gives that concert feel.

Whether these are the artists and songs of your youth, or possibly your first introduction to them, Million Dollar Quartet is a superb evening of theater for all. From “Blue Suede Shoes”, “I Walk the Line” and “Hound Dog” to “Great Balls of Fire”, this incredible piece of music history comes alive on the stage before your eyes and transports you back to another time. This show is fascinating and fabulous fun.

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The Observer Review

Come one, come all, there’s a hit at the Engeman

January 23, 2020
By David Ambro

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport has provided us with a high level of entertainment for a long time, but the show that is there right now is by far the best live music this town has ever seen.

Million Dollar Quartet is a show about a jam session December 4, 1956 at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, a recording studio made famous by Sam Phillips, the Father of Rock ‘n Roll. In the studio are rock legends Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, all protégés of Mr. Phillips. They are all there for different reasons, Carl Perkins to record a song, Johnny Cash to tell Mr. Phillips he is leaving for a new contract at Columbia Records, Elvis to try to talk Mr. Phillips into coming with him to RCA Records in New York, and Jerry Lee Lewis there to launch his musical career.

Though emotions run high and low, what they all have in common is an appreciation, admiration and respect for their mentor, and it is those feelings for Mr. Phillips that sparks the music.

The quartet of superstars is accompanied at the studio by Elvis’ girlfriend Dyanne, who performs vocals, Carl Perkins’ brother Jay who plays the bass, and Fluke on the drums. They tell the story of rock n’ roll history, the meteoric rise of each performer’s career, biographical flashbacks about their lives and their upbringings, including a commonality they share from the death of loved ones and how that affected their lives.

Beyond the storyline though, Million Dollar Quartet is a rock concert by a talented cast of musicians who awe the audience with classic music, from solos to quartets. And after the recording session seems to be done and the studio goes black, they jump back on stage for an encore that caps off the show in classic concert style.

This is no doubt one of the best shows the Engeman Theater has ever brought us. Buy your tickets now because when word gets out about how good this is they are going to be hard to find.

The cast of Million Dollar Quartet is special in that every one of the performers is an Actors Equity professional. That tells you something. But better than that, they are all tremendous at what they do.

Jerry Lee Lewis is played by Noel Carey. It’s a tough part to play because Jerry Lee Lewis is a bit weird in real life, and in the scripted lines Mr. Carey emotes through it, but he is one of the most talented musicians ever to hit Main Street in Northport Village. Mr. Carey is probably one of the most exciting rock n’ roll pianists around, and he couples that with a melodic voice that is worth the price of admission alone.

Carl Perkins is played by Sam Sherwood. He is the music captain of the show and it’s easy to see why. Mr. Sherwood plays the electric guitar with such skill and spirit that it is a performance theater lovers and music enthusiasts can’t miss.

Sky Seals plays Johnny Cash, not the old slow singing Johnny Cash many of us remember, but the young up-and-coming Johnny Cash full of vim and vigor, and Seals delivers on some solo classics that are tremendous: Folsom Prison Blues, Sixteen Tons and I Walk the Line among them.

Sean Michael Buckley plays Elvis, and it is also at a time when he is at his prime, the hottest rock n roll idol and movie star in America at the time. In mannerism, Mr. Buckley brings us a real Elvis, but like the rest of the cast he is a tremendous musician, a wonderful acoustic guitarist, and like Johnny Cash, he delivers some classic solos that are terrific, Hound Dog, Long Tall Sally, Peace in the Valley to name a few.

Sarah Ellis plays Dyanne, and although she is not a star of the 1956 rock era, she is a star on the Engeman stage. Ms. Ellis is both a tremendous actor and a fantastic singer, who enhances this magical quartet of superstars, and also fills the stage with solo performances of Fever and I Hear You Knockin.

This is a show that crosses the generational divide with rock n’ roll that livens the spirit. Beyond their individual performances, the quartet delivers the million dollar billing with such classics as Down By the Riverside, I Shall Not Be Moved, one of my favorites, Party and Peace in the Valley.

Again, this is a tremendous show not to be missed. If you do, you’ve let one of Engeman’s best pass you by.

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