Million Dollar Quartet (musical)

Last updated
Million Dollar Quartet
Million Dollar Quartet (musical).jpg
MusicVarious Artists
LyricsVarious Artists
BookColin Escott
Floyd Mutrux
Productions2006 Florida
2010 Broadway
2011 West End
2011 US tour

Million Dollar Quartet is a jukebox musical with a book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux. It dramatizes the Million Dollar Quartet recording session of December 4, 1956, among early rock and roll/country stars who recorded at Sun studio in Memphis, which are Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, and newcomer Jerry Lee Lewis. The musical opened on Broadway in 2010, after several tryouts and regional productions, and spawned a 2011 West End production.



Florida and Washington (2006–2008)

The musical premiered at Florida's Seaside Music Theatre, running from November 9 to December 4, 2006, and was then staged at the Village Theatre in Issaquah, Washington in September through October 2007, and Everett, Washington, in January 2008, [1] [2] breaking box office records. [3]

Chicago (2008–2016)

The musical had a limited run at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, opening on September 27, 2008. [4] Mutrux co-directed the Chicago production with Eric D. Schaeffer, Artistic Director of Virginia's Signature Theatre. The show transferred to Chicago's Apollo Theater where it opened on October 31, 2008. [4] It celebrated its 2500th performance on September 20, 2014.[ citation needed ], The show closed on January 17 and ranked as the third-longest running show, in terms of calendar span, in Chicago Theatre history (behind Co-Ed Prison Sluts and Shear Madness ). [5]

The cast featured David Lago as Elvis Presley, Gabe Bowling as Carl Perkins, Sean Sullivan as Johnny Cash, Lance Lipinsky as Jerry Lee Lewis. Tim Decker as Sam Phillips, and Kelly Lamont as Dyanne [6]

Broadway (2010–2011)

The Broadway production premiered at the Nederlander Theatre on April 11, 2010, [7] with a cast featuring Eddie Clendening as Elvis Presley, Lance Guest as Johnny Cash, Levi Kreis as Jerry Lee Lewis, Robert Britton Lyons as Carl Perkins and Hunter Foster as Sam Phillips. [8] The Broadway cast also included Elizabeth Stanley as "Dyanne", [9] who in the show accompanies Elvis Presley to the Sun Records studio and sings "Fever" and "I Hear You Knocking", as well as provides back-up vocals. [10] The original Broadway cast also included Corey Kaiser as Jay Perkins on bass and Larry Lelli as Fluke the drummer. [11] Again directed by Eric Schaeffer, the scenic design is by Derek McLane, costume design is by Jane Greenwood, and lighting design by Howell Binkley.

The musical was nominated for three 2010 Tony Awards: Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Levi Kreis. [12] Kreis won the award for Best Featured Actor for his portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis.

The original cast recording was released in 2010. [13]

The musical closed on June 12, 2011 after having played 489 performances and 34 previews. The production opened Off-Broadway at the New World Stages in July 2011. [14]

West End (2011–2012)

Million Dollar Quartet: The Musical opened in the West End at the Noël Coward Theatre on February 28, 2011, with previews from February 8. [15] [16]

The original cast featured Bill Ward as Sam Phillips, Ben Goddard as Jerry Lee Lewis, Derek Hagen as Johnny Cash, Francesca Jackson as Dyanne, Robert Britton Lyons as Carl Perkins (However, from March 2011, he was replaced by Oliver Seymour-Marsh who was originally the first understudy for the same role), and Michael Malarkey as Elvis Presley. [17] [18] This production is again directed by Schaeffer with orchestrations and arrangements by Chuck Mead. [15]

The show closed in London on January 14, 2012, having previously been booking until October 27, 2012. [19]

Off-Broadway (2011–2012)

The musical transferred to New World Stages in July 2011. [14] The show had struggled at the box office in final months of the Broadway production, taking in $242,786 out of a potential $1,109,700 and playing to 36.76% of capacity for the week ending June 5, 2011. [20] The cast for Million Dollar Quartet at New World Stages features Eric Stang (Jerry Lee Lewis), Eddie Clendening (Elvis Presley), Lance Guest (Johnny Cash), Robert Britton Lyons (Carl Perkins), Victoria Matlock (Dyanne), James Moye (Sam Phillips), Corey Kaiser (Jay Perkins) and Don Peretz (Fluke). The production closed on June 24, 2012. [21]

U.S. tour (2011–)

A United States national tour of the musical began in October 2011 at the Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio. [22] The tour cast features Derek Keeling as Johnny Cash, Cody Slaughter as Elvis Presley, Martin Kaye as Jerry Lee Lewis, Lee Ferris as Carl Perkins, Christopher Ryan Grant as Sam Phillips, Kelly Lamont as Dyanne, Billy Shaffer as Fluke and Chuck Zayas as Jay Perkins. [23] The national tour will hit Appleton Fox Cities, Portland, Miami, Houston, Indianapolis, Memphis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Tempe, Salt Lake City, Seattle, San Jose, and many more.

Original Canadian Cast (2016)

The Million Dollar Quartet original Canadian cast premiered at the Chemainus Theatre Festival on February 12, 2016. It ran through March 26th, 2016. It featured Alexander Baerg as Elvis Presley, Dan Kosub as Carl Perkins, Montgomery Bjornson as Jerry Lee Lewis, Jonas Shandel as Johnny Cash, Leon Willey as Sam Phillips, Meaghan Chenosky as Dyanne, Scott Carmichael as Fluke, and Kraig Waye as Brother Jay. [24]


On December 4, 1956, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley assemble at the Sun Record recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee.

Established performer Carl Perkins was to record songs with a new performer, Jerry Lee Lewis. Elvis Presley stops by the studio along with his girlfriend, a singer named Dyanne (at the real session, Elvis's girlfriend was a dancer, Marilyn Evans—now Riehl). [25] Johnny Cash has stopped by to talk to recording impresario Sam Philips. They soon have a jam session together. Philips attempts to re-sign Johnny Cash to a new contract, unaware he has already signed with Columbia Records. Typically, as a member from the Quartet enters for the first time, he sings a verse of one of his most famous songs, followed by an onstage freeze of all actors. During this time Sam Philips relates to the audience how he first discovered the boy, and a brief, few line scene of that moment occurs between Philips and the musician, followed by Sam Phillips asking the boy to play something for him, which is the next verse of the song, and everyone unfreezes.

The show is performed without an intermission.

At the end of the show, the traditional announcement is made that "Elvis has left the building".

Casts and characters

CharacterChicago (2008)Broadway (2010)West End (2011)
Sam PhillipsTim Decker Hunter Foster Bill Ward
Jerry Lee LewisLance Lipinsky Levi Kreis Ben Goddard
Carl PerkinsGabe BowlingsRobert Britton Lyons
Johnny CashSean Sullivan Lance Guest Derek Hagen
Elvis Presley David Lago Eddie Clendening Michael Malarkey
DyanneUnknown Elizabeth Stanley Francesca Jackson


Musical numbers

Notable celebrity performers

Several notable performers have joined the cast of the show for the encore, including: Melissa Etheridge on June 23, 2010, [26] Jerry Lee Lewis on September 10, 2010, [27] Lesley Gore on October 28, 2010, [28] and Ray Benson on November 16, 2010. [29]


Million Dollar Quartet received mixed reviews from critics (the average grade of 28 major reviews was a "B"). [30]

The New York Times reviewer wrote that "There's a lot to like about this relatively scrappy variation on a familiar theme. 'Million Dollar Quartet' has a pleasing modesty, taking place as it does on a single afternoon, Dec. 4, 1956, in the rattletrap recording studio of Sun Records in Memphis...The actors portraying these pioneers... don’t just play the roles but play the music too. Gifted musicians and likable performers, they tackle with no apparent discomfort the unenviable chore of impersonating some of the most revered names in pop music, from their slick pompadours right down to their frisky, agile fingertips." [11]

In a summary of the Broadway reviews, the Backstage reviewer noted: "When the curtain call is the most exciting part of a show, it's definitely a problem. Such is the case with "Million Dollar Quartet", the latest attempt to turn pop nostalgia into Broadway box-office gold." The New York Magazine reviewer commented "The actors—all four of them crackerjack singers and musicians—distill the essence of their real-life counterparts without succumbing to excessive caricature." [31]

Audiences felt that the show was "fun and upbeat" but that it was "little more than a dinner theatre-level entry designed to fill time." One audience member noted that they were "partially impressed with the librettist's ability to turn this concept into an actual story" although the introductions to some of the songs were "mostly groan-worthy." [32]

Awards and nominations

Original Broadway production

YearAward CeremonyCategoryNomineeResult
2010 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Book of a Musical Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux Nominated
Best Featured Actor in a Musical Levi Kreis Won
Drama Desk Award [33] Outstanding Musical Revue Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Levi Kreis Won
Drama League Award Distinguished Production of a MusicalNominated

Related Research Articles

Sam Phillips American record producer

Samuel Cornelius Phillips was an American record producer. He was the founder of Sun Records and Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, where he produced recordings by Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Howlin' Wolf. Phillips played a major role in the development of rock and roll during the 1950s, launching the career of Presley. In 1969, he sold Sun to Shelby Singleton.

Jerry Lee Lewis American singer and pianist

Jerry Lee Lewis is an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. Nicknamed the Killer, he has been described as "rock n' roll's first great wild man and one of the most influential pianists of the twentieth century." A pioneer of rock and roll and rockabilly music, Lewis made his first recordings in 1956 at Sun Records in Memphis. "Crazy Arms" sold 300,000 copies in the South, but it was his 1957 hit "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" that shot Lewis to fame worldwide. He followed this with the major hits "Great Balls of Fire", "Breathless", and "High School Confidential". However, his rock and roll career faltered in the wake of his marriage to Myra Gale Brown, his 13-year-old cousin.

Sun Records American independent record label

Sun Records is an American independent record label founded by producer Sam Phillips in Memphis, Tennessee in February 1952. Sun was the first label to record Elvis Presley, Charlie Rich, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. Prior to that, Sun had concentrated mainly on African-American musicians because Phillips loved rhythm and blues and wanted to bring it to a white audience.

Carl Perkins American rockabilly musician

Carl Lee Perkins was an American singer-songwriter who recorded most notably at the Sun Studio, in Memphis, beginning in 1954. Amongst his best-known songs are "Blue Suede Shoes", "Matchbox" and "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby".

Sun Studio United States historic place

Sun Studio is a recording studio opened by rock-and-roll pioneer Sam Phillips at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, on January 3, 1950. It was originally called Memphis Recording Service, sharing the same building with the Sun Records label business. Reputedly the first rock and roll single, Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats' "Rocket 88" was recorded there in 1951 with song composer Ike Turner on keyboards, leading the studio to claim status as the birthplace of rock & roll. Blues and R&B artists like Howlin' Wolf, Junior Parker, Little Milton, B.B. King, James Cotton, Rufus Thomas, and Rosco Gordon recorded there in the early 1950s.

Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On Music single

"Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" is a song written by Dave "Curlee" Williams and sometimes also credited to James Faye "Roy" Hall. The song was first recorded by Big Maybelle, though the best-known version is the 1957 rock and roll/rockabilly version by Jerry Lee Lewis.

<i>Class of 55: Memphis Rock & Roll Homecoming</i> 1986 studio album by Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins

Class of '55: Memphis Rock & Roll Homecoming is collaborative studio album by Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash. it was released on May 26, 1986, by America/Smash Records, a subsidiary of Polygram Records. The album was produced by Chips Moman.

Lance Guest American film and television actor

Lance R. Guest is an American film and television actor, best known for his starring role in 1984's The Last Starfighter.

Matchbox (song) Original song written and composed by Carl Perkins

"Matchbox" is a song written and recorded by Carl Perkins and released in 1957. Blind Lemon Jefferson wrote and recorded a song entitled "Match Box Blues" in 1927, which is musically different but which contains some lyric phrases in common.

Million Dollar Quartet

"Million Dollar Quartet" is a recording of an impromptu jam session involving Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash made on December 4, 1956, at the Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. An article about the session was published in the Memphis Press-Scimitar under the title "Million Dollar Quartet". The recording was first released in Europe in 1981 as The Million Dollar Quartet with 17 tracks. A few years later more tracks were discovered and released as The Complete Million Dollar Session. In 1990, the recordings were released in the United States as Elvis Presley - The Million Dollar Quartet. This session is considered a seminal moment in rock and roll.

<i>The Sun Records Collection</i> 1994 compilation album by Various Artists

The Sun Records Collection is a 1994 compilation album.

W. S. Holland American drummer

W. S. "Fluke" Holland was an American drummer who played with Carl Perkins, and later for Johnny Cash in the bands The Tennessee Three, The Great Eighties Eight, and The Johnny Cash Show Band.

<i>The Survivors</i> (album) 1982 live album by Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis

The Survivors is a live album by country/rockabilly musicians Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis, released in 1982 on Columbia Records.

"Peace in the Valley" is a 1939 song written by Thomas A. Dorsey, originally for Mahalia Jackson. Its full title is "There'll Be Peace In The Valley For Me". The song was a hit in 1951 for Red Foley and the Sunshine Boys, reaching number seven on the Country & Western Best Seller chart. It was among the first gospel recordings to sell one million copies. Foley's version was a 2006 entry into the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry.

<i>The King of Rock n Roll: The Complete 50s Masters</i> 1992 box set by Elvis Presley

The King of Rock 'n' Roll: The Complete 50's Masters is a five-disc box set compilation of the complete known studio master recordings by American singer and musician Elvis Presley during the decade of the 1950s. Issued in 1992 by RCA Records, catalog number 66050-2, it was soon followed by similar box sets covering Presley's musical output in the 1960s and 1970s. This set's initial long-box release included a set of collectible stamps duplicating the record jackets from every Presley LP on RCA Victor, every single that had a picture sleeve, and most of his EP releases. The set includes a booklet with an extensive session list and discography, and a lengthy essay by Peter Guralnick. It peaked at #159 on the album chart and was certified a gold record on August 7, 1992, by the RIAA. Further certifications were for platinum on November 20, 1992, and for double platinum on July 30, 2002.

"Brown Eyed Handsome Man" is a rock and roll song written and recorded by Chuck Berry, originally released by Chess Records in September 1956 as the B-side of "Too Much Monkey Business." It was also included on Berry's 1957 debut album, After School Session. The song title was also used as the title of a biography of Berry.

"That's When Your Heartaches Begin" is a 1937 song by Fred Fisher, William Raskin and Billy Hill. It was recorded and released the same year by Shep Fields Rippling Rhythm. The song first became popular following a 1941 recording by The Ink Spots. The song was recorded by Elvis Presley on at least three occasions during the 1950s, and was one of two songs he recorded in July 1953, prior to the beginning of his professional career, for a demo acetate purportedly given to his mother as a birthday present, which is strange because her birthday was in April.

<i>Beyond the Sun</i> (album) 2011 studio album by Chris Isaak

Beyond the Sun is the eleventh studio album by Chris Isaak, released through Vanguard Records on October 18, 2011. It is a collection of songs recorded by Sun Records artists Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. Some of the songs were originally released on Sun Records. The record itself was recorded at Sun Studio, Memphis, Tennessee and the cover photograph was taken by Sheryl Louis outside the studio on Union Avenue.

Birth of Rock and Roll

"Birth of Rock and Roll" is a 1986 song written by Carl Perkins and Greg Perkins. The song was featured on the Class of '55 album which included performances with Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis. "Birth of Rock and Roll" was released as a 7" single with a picture sleeve, 885 760-7, on the Smash/America label copyrighted by PolyGram Records produced by Chips Moman. The single reached No. 31 on the Billboard country chart and No. 44 on the Canadian country chart in 1986. The B side was "Rock and Roll (Fais-Do-Do)" which featured Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison. The theme of the song “Birth of Rock and Roll" is about how "Memphis gave birth to rock and roll" in the 1950s at Sun Records. A video of the song was also made featuring Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones as they drove to the historic Sun studios in Memphis, Tennessee in a white Cadillac convertible.


  1. Berson, Misha."On Broadway: Village co-stars catch 'Million Dollar' ride to Broadway" The Seattle Times, June 12, 2010
  2. "Village Voices, August 2007", retrieved November 28, 2010
  3. "Million Dollar Quartet To Make Midwest Premiere at Goodman Theatre", retrieved November 28, 2010
  4. 1 2 Jones, Kenneth."Perkins, Elvis, Cash and Lewis Are Chicago's Hot Million Dollar Quartet, Opening Nov. 5" Archived 2012-10-18 at the Wayback Machine November 5, 2008
  5. Jones, Chris (2015-10-22). "Why Chicago needs fun, long-running shows". Chicago Tribune . Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  6. "Million Dollar Quartet at the Apollo Theater Extended", September 29, 2010
  7. Dollar Quartet Will Be New Tenant of Broadway's Nederlander Theatre
  8. Fick, David. "Million Dollar Quartet Opens Tonight". Musical Cyberspace, April 11, 2010
  9. Gans, Andrew."Foster and Stanley Will Join Original Chicago Quartet for Broadway's Million Dollar Quartet" Archived 2011-06-29 at the Wayback Machine, January 21, 2010
  10. MDQ Merchandising LLC (2010). "Song List" and "Performing Credits". In Million Dollar Quartet CD booklet, p. 5. New York City: Avatar Studios; and Chicago: Chicago Recording Company.
  11. 1 2 Isherwood, Charles."Over at Sun Records, Whole Lotta Rock History Goin’ On" The New York Times, April 12, 2010
  12. "Who's Nominated?". Tony Awards. IBM Corp. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
  13. Probst, Andy.Million Dollar Quartet Original Cast Recording Now Available", January 4, 2010
  14. 1 2 Hetrick, Adam."'Million Dollar Quartet' Begins New Gig Off-Broadway at New World Stages July 28" Archived 2013-02-05 at the Wayback Machine, July 28, 2011
  15. 1 2 "Million Dollar Quartet Rocks London Beginning Feb. 8" Archived 2011-03-16 at the Wayback Machine, February 8, 2011.
  16. Gans, Andrew and Hetrick, Adam."'Million Dollar Quartet' to Open at London's Noël Coward Theatre in February 2011" Archived 2011-02-20 at the Wayback Machine, November 19, 2010
  17. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-19. Retrieved 2010-12-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), Dec 21 2010.
  18. Gans, Andrew. "Casting Complete for London's Million Dollar Quartet" Archived 2011-01-08 at the Wayback Machine . Playbill. January 6, 2011.
  19. "'Million Dollar Qyartet to Close" [ permanent dead link ]
  20. "Grosses, 'Million Dollar Quartet', 2011" Archived 2012-04-05 at the Wayback Machine, accessed October 14, 2011
  21. MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET to Close at New World Stages, June 24
  22. Hetrick, Adam. "National Tour of 'Million Dollar Quartet' Opens in Cleveland, OH, Oct. 13" Archived 2011-10-19 at the Wayback Machine, October 13, 2011
  23. Gans, Andrew. "Derek Keeling, Cody Slaughter, Martin Kaye and More Cast in Million Dollar Quartet Tour" Archived 2012-10-22 at the Wayback Machine, September 9, 2011.
  24. "Million Dollar Quartet – Chemainus Theatre Festival". Chemainus Theatre Festival. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
  25. George, Jason (November 11, 2008). "How the Tribune tracked her down". Chicago Tribune . Live!, page 4. Archived from the original on December 8, 2008.
  26. Hetrick, Adam."Melissa Etheridge Rocks 'Million Dollar Quartet' Finale June 23" Archived 2010-09-24 at the Wayback Machine, June 23, 2010
  27. "Jerry Lee Lewis' Million Dollar Jam Session", September 10, 2010
  28. McBride, Walter.", October 29, 2010
  29. Hetrick, Adam."Grammy Winner Ray Benson Sings with 'Million Dollar Quartet' (Video)" Archived 2010-11-23 at the Wayback Machine, accessed November 29, 2010
  30. "Million Dollar Quartet" Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine . Stage Grade. Retrieved 12-9-10.
  31. BWW News Desk.MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET Review Roundup", April 12, 2010
  32. "Million Dollar Quartet" Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine . Stage Grade / Community Reviews. Retrieved 12-9-10.
  33. Gans, Andrew."Red, Memphis, Bridge, Fences and La Cage Win Drama Desk Awards" Archived 2014-03-02 at the Wayback Machine, May 23, 2010