WHAT "Million Dollar Quartet"
WHERE Argyle Theatre, 34 W. Main St., Babylon
INFO From $49, argyletheatre.com, 844-631-5483
BOTTOM LINE Calling all boomers — a blast from the past in this entertaining look at four rock 'n' roll icons.
There’s "a whole lotta shakin' goin' on" in downtown Babylon for the next few weeks courtesy of the Argyle Theatre, where the energetic and highly entertaining "Million Dollar Quartet" runs through June 23.
The jukebox musical that got three Tony nominations in its 2010 Broadway debut recalls a revered moment in time for fans of rock 'n' roll — especially for baby boomers who grew up with this music. On Dec. 4, 1956, a chance meeting brought Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis to the Memphis studios of Sun Records, where they recorded an impromptu jam session that in all probability will never be matched.
We get the story from the man at the top, Sam Phillips (John Glowacki), the head of the studios who had invited Presley and Cash to drop by during Perkins' scheduled recording session. Lewis was just an unestablished piano player at that point, on the scene as a member of the in-house band.
The story bogs down in narrative as Phillips looks back at meeting each of these eventual superstars, with the only drama coming from some predictable internal rivalries and the potential defection by Cash and Perkins to Columbia (Presley's contract had already been sold to RCA in order to keep Sun afloat). And while this event really did take place (a photo at the end proves it), writers Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux have always made it clear liberties were taken with timing of events that actually played out over 18 months.
But this is a concert more than anything else, and the show, directed and choreographed by Adam Pelty, lives on a playlist that includes iconic numbers "Blue Suede Shoes," "Fever" and "Sixteen Tons" (though that wasn't actually sung that day). Playing Perkins, Morgan Bernhard gets the nostalgia going in "See You Later, Alligator" and as Cash, James Penca sounds very much like the real thing in "Folsom Prison Blues" and "I Walk the Line." Alessandro Gian Viviano's Presley shows us Elvis before he was Elvis in "Long Tall Sally" and "Hound Dog," with just a hint of those crazy, hip-shaking moves that would eventually drive fans wild.
But it's Taylor Gray, who also serves as music director, really driving the show. As Lewis, his athletic pyrotechnics on the piano (yes, he does that bit playing behind his back) bring down the house in "Great Balls of Fire." No surprise that by the time "Whole Lotta Shakin' " closes the show, everyone's singing along and dancing like the kids they once were.