Million Dollar Quartet is a Million Dollar Winner at The Grand Theatre

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The Grand Theater’s closes the 2023-2024 season with a musical production that is the best of the year. In a season where Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was another stunning winner, Quartet is a treat for anyone who enjoys live music as four rock ‘n’ roll legends relive music history. It’s an evening of reminiscing, song, and dance.

The Story

Million Dollar Quartet Credit Grand Theatre

The popular jukebox musical relives the unplanned collision of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, who found themselves in the same place at the same time, and ultimately recorded perhaps the greatest jam session of all time, including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “That’s Alright, Mama,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Hound Dog”, and more.

“Million Dollar Quartet serves up the most energetic party of a show, featuring an all-star cast of incredible actor-musicians,” says Director and Choreographer, Julie Tomaino. “Add that to the story of Sam Phillips and Sun Records, and you’re guaranteed a great night out.

Million Dollar Quartet Photo DownshiftingPRO
Million Dollar Quartet (L-R) Christo Graham as Jerry Lee Lewis, Tyler Check as Carl Perkins, Adam Stevenson as Johnny Cash, Kelly Holiff as Dyanne, and (sitting) Michael Vanhevel as Elvis Presley. Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

In to record new music, Carl Perkins and his band come to Sun Studio. Owner, Sam Phillips, invites, a yet unknown Jerry Lee Lewis to accompany Perkins who is more than eager to showcase his talent. Elvis Presley arrives with girlfriend in towand eventually, Johnny Cash drops in and the impromptu Quartet is complete.

“To think that there was ever a night as magical as this, where four men on the brink of superstardom came together in one space, is almost unbelievable,” shares Rachel Peake, Artistic Director of the Grand Theatre. “What playwrights Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux have done in this piece is to allow us to be a fly on the wall – to imagine the conversations, the jokes, the sharing, and the heartache of that night that will forever be a part of music history.”

The Cast

Million Dollar Quartet Marquee Photo DownshiftingPRO
Million Dollar Quartet Marquee Photo DownshiftingPRO

Million Dollar Quartet boasts a stacked cast of multi-talented actor-musicians, including Tyler Check as Carl Perkins, Christo Graham as Jerry Lee Lewis, Justin Han as W.S. Fluke Holland, Kelly Holiff as Dyanne, Omar Alex Khan as Sam Phillips, Erik Larson as Jay Perkins, Adam Stevenson as Johnny Cash, and Michael Vanhevel as Elvis Presley.

Tyler Credit Dahlia Katz via Grand Theatre
Tyler Check Credit Dahlia Katz via Grand Theatre

Tyler Check does a fantastic job of playing jaded Carl Perkins. Feeling cast aside as his hit, Blue Suede Shoes is premiered on television by Elvis Presley, he walks around with a chip on his shoulder and creates much-needed tension to carry the story forward. His rockabilly sound and guitar playing is outstanding, and we only wish the sound was more in a concert setting than a theatre.

Christo Graham Credit Dahlia Katz via Grand Theatre 1

Also outstanding and a ‘great ball of fire’ was Christo Graham as Jerry Lee Lewis (JLL). I thought he came alive on opening night and he brought an energy to the stage that was electric. As the youngest and lesser-known talent at the time, Jerry Lee Lewis wanted nothing more than to take center stage and shine. With the masterful piano playing and antics, Graham successfully led the audience to believe JLL would have been that audacious and bombastic.

Michael Vanhevel brought subtlety and a bit more maturity to his portrayal of Elvis. 1956 was a breakthrough year for Presley. This was at the beginning of his career, there was still much celebrity (notoriety?) yet to come. In Million Dollar Quartet, Elvis was just starting out and much of that was due to his start at Sun Record with his mentor, Sam Phillips.

That night was all about giving thanks to Sam Phillips for helping launch Elvis. In the second act, Vanhevel’s rendition of Hound Dog and Whole Lota Shakin’ shine.

Finally, another quietly impactful portrayal comes from Dyanne, Elvis’ girlfriend. Kelly Holiff, a theatre, cabaret, and concert performer based in Toronto, does a wonderful job of ‘moving the plot along.’ As we spoke about her role and the importance of being the only woman in the production, she explained how she felt Dyanne’s role was to move the plot from one character to another.

Kelly Holiff as Dyanne Million Dollar Quarted Photo Credit Dahlia Katz via Grand Theatre 1
Kelly Holiff as Dyanne Million Dollar Quarted Photo Credit Dahlia Katz via Grand Theatre

Holiff adds depth to the musical performance with a sultry rendition of Fever. One interesting coincidence is that once she was cast, she told the director she was related to Johnny Cash’s manager, Saul Holiff. A London native, he managed Elvis from 1960 to 73.

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Sun Studio building, where Sun Records was founded, in Memphis, Tennessee. Photo by Chris Light, under Creative Commons.

Special kudos go out to Set Designer Joshua Quinlan as Set Designer who re-created the Sun Studio facade brick by brick. The rotating stage opens up to a soundstage with a recording booth in the back. This places the quartet front and center.

Sun Studio at The Grand Theatre Photo DownshiftingPRO

Overall, this production of Million Dollar Quartet is boisterous and fun and keeps the audience engaged. The last few songs were a celebration of great music. The quartet invited the audience to remain standing, dancing, and singing. Everyone was enjoying themselves. The show ended with roaring applause and well-deserved standing ovations. I cannot say enough about this final production in the 2023-24 season – it will have you coming back for more. I’m very pleased they have extended the run until May 11th, so you still have time to go.

Please go… it is too good to miss!

Details

Million Dollar Quartet plays on the Spriet Stage at the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario, from April 16 to May 11, 2024.

Single tickets range from $23 to $93 and are available at www.grandtheatre.com, by phone at 519-672-8800, or at the Box Office, 471 Richmond Street.

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Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for DownshiftingPRO.com and other online media outlets.