Montgomery Bjornson was a real crowd pleaser as Jerry Lee Lewis in his return to Million Dollar Quartet at the Chemainus Theatre Festival. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Review: ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ boasts stellar performances

Jerry Lee, Elvis, Johnny, and Carl are back to tell about a magical day at Sun Records

If you’ve seen it before, it’s time to make your way back to see Million Dollar Quartet again at the Chemainus Theatre Festival.

And if you haven’t, like this author, you’ve got a real treat in store until April 14.

Everything in this delightful show hangs on a simple thread: one day at Sam Phillips’ Sun Records studio in Memphis four of his big stars showed up in November 1956 for a never-to-be-forgotten session.

But the idea offers good actors lots of scope to tell their stories and the audience gets the thrill of a sneak peak through a hidden window into the studio.

Phillips, played by Brett Harris with a cool combination of huckster and heart, is trying to decide whether he should follow his major protege, Elvis (Frankie Cottrell), to RCA Records in New York City, or stay in Memphis where he wants to sign up-and-coming country star Johnny Cash (Jonas Shandel) to a multi-year deal that would get him over several financial and professional hurdles.

Meanwhile, the embattled record company owner also has to deal with Carl Perkins (Daniel Kosub) whose only hit, ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ has been stolen by Elvis, and who is desperate to claw his way up the hit parade charts again, and the constant irritation of an ambitious young Jerry Lee Lewis (Montgomery Bjornson), who has taken to hanging around the studio like a bad smell.

Carl is in the studio, working on a song while Jerry Lee is incessantly trying to add his two bits worth, annoying Carl and Sam but showing the audience he’s got plenty of talent. In fact, during parts of the show it’s hard to take your eyes off him, even if he’s sitting still: Bjornson is just so full of simmering energy that he effortlessly draws the eye.

Kosub is really good in the role of Perkins, the most difficult in the whole show. He knows he has to remain upbeat and creative while fighting down that sinking feeling, but sometimes it gets him down to see others racing past him on the way to big contracts.

Later, Johnny and Elvis arrive, with Elvis bringing his current Hollywood flame, Dyanne (Sarah Horsman) who really lights up the stage, taking full advantage of every opportunity offered and adding va-va-voom and colour to this otherwise all-male show.

Her rendition of ‘Fever’ is enough to moisten male brows in any audience but she makes herself useful in a lot of quiet ways and got a big hand at the end on the strength of her performance.

Elvis has all the moves and confidence of a big star returned to visit an old friend but he also manages to show that he’s feeling a bit lost in his new Hollywood movie star life.

Shandel’s Johnny Cash is the deep-voiced anchor to the quartet and the show. His singing and physical presence as The Man in Black are so vivid that the audience is swept back to the ’50s with the first note.

The show only runs until April 14, so be sure to call the ticket centre at 1-800-565-7738 or go to https://tickets.chemainustheatrefestival.ca/TheatreManager/1/login?event=0 to book online.

 

Daniel Kosub returns to the Chemainus Theatre in the difficult role of one-hit wonder, Carl Perkins, left, while Jonas Shandel enjoys playing Johnny Cash: the Man in Black on his way up. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

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