ATI M$Q2

reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

When Actors Theatre of Indiana opened its 2016-17 season with Million Dollar Quartet in September 2016, it struck gold! It was a huge success – combining rock & roll history with high caliber musical performances. To quote my 2016 review: “…far more than a mere production – Million Dollar Quartet is an accomplishment! To call this show energetic would be a severe understatement – to say it is powerfully lively and spirited again lands short of the mark – only by describing it as a kick-ass, red-blooded, high-powered ball of fire would I be closing in on the fact of the matter.” Once again, those words apply as ATI sees fit to repeat the show just 22 months later. They know how to make their audiences happy!

Director DJ Salisbury returns, with most of the ’16 cast intact, to craft what I think is an even bolder and more succinct depiction of the legendary meeting of Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley on December 4, 1956 at Sun Studios in Memphis.

finale

(from left) Gavin Rohrer, Sean Riley, Adam Tran, Kroy Presley, Brandon Alstott and Betsy Norton hit the finale in ATI’s production of “Million Dollar Quartet”

The show is essentially the story of that remarkable night and the creators, Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, were savvy enough to include some drama and comedy to bolster the musical content. (It’s basically a tight drama with a high energy concert attached.) From my perspective, this time there seems to be a bit more attention paid to dramatic events, coupled with an easy handling of comic moments, and of course, the outrageously top level musical aspect. It all works great with stunning performances from the cast and, at least for folks from my generation, stirred up memories of when music took that right turn into rock n’ roll!

Returning company members Brandon Alstott (Cash), Don Farrell (as Sun Studios owner, Sam Phillips), Adam Tran (Presley), Betsy Norton (Presley’s girlfriend, Dyanne), Kroy Presley (as Carl Perkins’ bassist brother, Jay) and Nathan Shew (as drummer Fluke) all expand their understanding and depictions of the characters they portray. Sean Riley and Gavin Rohrer (Perkins and Lewis, respectively) make their ATI debuts, bringing well-honed musical and acting skills to the show.

All this action takes place on designer P. Bernard Killian’s wonderfully detailed Sun Studio set, with dynamic lighting effects by Marciel Irene Greene, and a quality sound design by Jonathan Parke and Zach Rosing. Donna Jacobi’s spot-on costumes complete the picture.

Bottomline: Million Dollar Quartet is, in a word, “fun” – and lots of it! Really, I wish all theatre could be this much fun. If you saw the ’16 event, you are going to want to see it again. If you missed it last time, you will not want to make that mistake twice.

Million Dollar Quartet continues at ATI’s Studio Theatre in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel through June 17th. You can get information about the schedule and tickets by calling 317.843.3800 or by logging onto http://www.atistage.org .

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing

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