The Million Dollar Quartet's Amazing Milestone
Long-running production has a special place in the annals of Chicago theater
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IT has become quite evident that there is something the award-winning and captivating musical Million Dollar Quartet and the Energizer Bunny have in common––simply put, they both just keep going and going and going and . . .
Time after time and time again, at the end of each scheduled run at the Apollo Theater, it has become routine to hear and see the familiar phrase: "Extended by popular demand." In fact, the extensions have come so consistently that the production continues to be the longest-running Broadway musical production in Chicago history. It’s currently scheduled to run through July 19.
Amazingly, it has been running more than six years, with more than 2,000 performances on a Chicago stage. That’s longer than Wicked, longer than Pumpboys and Dinettes, even longer than the popular fan-favorite Cats.
The Tony Award-winning Broadway production moved to Chicago's Apollo Theater in October 2008 following its sold-out, limited engagement at the Goodman’s Owen Theatre. The long-term success of the show about four music icons who come together on one magical night can be attributed to the fact that it is a believable, kinetic, hand-clapping, toe-tapping, stand-up-and-sing-along production that puts the “R” in rock ‘n’ roll. “Since the very beginning, Chicago has wholeheartedly embraced Million Dollar Quartet, and we are grateful for the continued and enthusiastic support of our hometown audiences,” says producer Gigi Pritzker. “It’s been a hit in Chicago, New York, London, Japan, Las Vegas and on the national tour. The show remains as exciting and engaging as always—partially due to the more than 20 rock ‘n’ roll hits in the show and the tremendous talent on stage.”
The collection of hits include classic tunes such as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “That’s All Right,” “I Walk The Line,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Hound Dog” “Riders in the Sky,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “See You Later, Alligator.” The talent on stage is stellar, with each performer being equally skillful as musicians and actors. During the current run at the Apollo Theater, the cast includes Shaun Whitley (Carl Perkins), Adam Lee (Johnny Cash), Lance Lipinsky (Jerry Lee Lewis), Brandon Bennett (Elvis Presley), Jason Bradley (Sam Phillips) and Kelly Lamont (Dyanne, Elvis’ girlfriend). Mark Edelstein (Jay Perkins) and Dan Leali (Fluke) provide superb support on bass and drums. “My wife and I attended as part of her 50th birthday celebration. If you are a fan of music and music history, this show is a must-see,” according to one fan reviewer on social media. “Show quality, showmanship, vocals, musicianship, story, all were just outstanding. My wife and I ended up dancing at the end of the show. I highly recommend this to anyone of any age. Outstanding show!”
Million Dollar Quartet was inspired by the December 4, 1956, unscheduled jam session that included Cash, Lewis, Perkins and Presley at Sun Records in Memphis, Tenn., where Perkins was scheduled to record a new song, and he was to be accompanied on piano by new Sun Records signee Lewis. This was the first and only time the four legends came together in a recording setting. In a twist of fate, Cash happened by the studio to pick up a royalty check and Elvis, who Phillips had released to RCA Records, showed up to be in the comfort of the old studio and the people he knew and missed. Now a young movie star as well as a singer, he also wanted to tell Phillips about his Las Vegas experience as the opening act for comedian Shecky Green––and being booed off stage. In one of the most memorable lines of the show, he vowed never to perform in Las Vegas again. History, however, paints a different picture.
The energy of the historic night was fueled by Phillips, a mentor who had signed each of the legends, one-by-one, to Sun Records, and he was basking in the glow of the momentous occasion, saying, “It ain’t every day I get a by-God Million Dollar Quartet in my studio. No telling when we all will be in the same place again.” As it turns out, he was more prophetic than he might have imagined.
The famed, one-time Memphis gathering came at a time when Phillips––a man dealing with stressful personal and business problems––was trying to keep Sun Records afloat, but he got caught up in the euphoria the special night had created, and he had no idea bigger, shattering surprises would arise before the night ended. Even so, the music mogul refused to give up despite the pitfalls and the resistance from those who didn’t immediately embrace the new form of expressive music. His reasoning? “Rock ‘n’ roll ain’t a fad; it’s a dam revolution!”
For 90 engaging minutes, the show moves seamlessly under the skillful direction of directors Floyd Mutrux and Eric Schaeffer. Music arranger Chuck Mead exhibits his ability to get the most out of the music, and scenic designer Adam Koch created a realistic and functional Sun Records studio.
Million Dollar Quartet, already a record-breaker in Chicago theater, continues to be––week after week––an entertaining history lesson about one of the most memorable and combustible nights that the music world has ever known.
Cast members in the rollicking Million Dollar Quartet exhibit some of the combustible energy that comes with the portrayal of four music legends.
Lance Lipinsky's portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis is one of the show's many highlights.
Tickets to Million Dollar Quartet are available through the Apollo Theater box office, 2540 N. Lincoln Avenue, (773) 935-6100. Tickets are available online through Ticketmaster, www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets start at $25. (Standard ticketing fees apply.) Rush student tickets for select performances (Wednesday through Friday and Sunday evenings only) are available two hours prior to curtain at the box office with valid student ID. Student rush tickets are subject to availability.
Million Dollar Quartet will offer special family discounts on select Sundays. "Family Nights" have extended through the season. The next "Family Nights" performance will be March 15 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets to Million Dollar Quartet "Family Nights" are buy-one-get-one-free. (One child under 17 will be admitted free with each adult ticket purchase.) The evenings will feature giveaways with special gifts from Million Dollar Quartet. Check www.milliondoallarquartetlive.com/family for information about upcoming "Family Nights."
The Apollo performance schedule is as follows: Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.