2021 Deeper Dive series



From left: Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins

The Fantastic Four and one legendary jam session
  • What: 'Million Dollar Quartet'
  • Written by: Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux
  • Genre: Jukebox musical featuring the music of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins
  • Year written: 2007
  • Broadway debut: 2010
  • Director: Rod Lansberry
  • Dates: April 2-May 2, 2021
  • Where: Arvada Center Mainstage Theatre
  • The musical at a glance: This love letter to rock ’n roll tells the true story of a legendary 1956 jam session at Sun Studio between four iconic musicians with troubled lives and complicated careers who came together to forget everything but what they loved to do most: Express the riotous joy, beauty and sadness of life in songs that shoot straight for the soul. Sam Phillips, the so-called "Father of Rock ’n Roll," gathered the four musicians at his storefront studio in Memphis for the first and only time. The resulting evening is now considered one of the greatest jam sessions in history, replete with broken promises, secrets, betrayal and amazing music. The sixth character in the story is a fictitious girlfriend of Elvis' named Dyanne. The score features timeless hits including "Blue Suede Shoes," "Ring of Fire," "That's All Right," "Sixteen Tons," "Great Balls of Fire," "I Walk the Line," "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," "See Ya Later, Alligator," "Fever," "Hound Dog" and more.
  • Quotable: “I hear the train a comin.’ It's rollin’ ’round the bend.” – Johnny Cash, singing "Folsom Prison Blues"
  • About the playwrights: Co-writer Colin Escott, who was born in England and lives near Nashville, Tennessee, is also the author of the book “Good Rockin’ Tonight: Sun Records and the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” His Hank Williams biography was adapted into the movie “I Saw the Light,” starring Tom Hiddleston. Floyd Mutrux attended Columbia University and worked at The Second City in Chicago. He and Escott also adapted “Million Dollar Quartet” into a TV series called “Sun Records.”

'You get to see all their demons and strengths, their mutual respect and their petty jealousies come out.' – Rod Lansberry
  • Says Rod Lansberry: “This musical brings you four of the most iconic music artists of the 1950s. And it really happened. It would be like if The Beatles and The Rolling Stones had a jam session. But this is more than a concert musical. There are stories behind each of these four. You get to see all their demons and strengths, their mutual respect and their petty jealousies come out.”
  • What critics have said: The New York Times called “Million Dollar Quartet” "a buoyant new musical that whips the crowd into a frenzy." The Hollywood Reporter opined: “This is a wildly entertaining show that wonderfully captures the spirit of these seminal figures who would go on to change the course of popular music.”
  • Fun facts: The 2010 Broadway staging starred Denver’s own Eddie Clendening as Elvis Presley. In all, Clendening played the role for more than three years. … One night on Broadway, Jerry Lee Lewis joined the actors on stage and performed with them during their encore. …“Million Dollar Quartet” received three Tony Award nominations, including Best Book and Best Musical. ... The first time the phrase “Million Dollar Quartet" appeared was in the headline of an article about the jam session published in the Memphis Press-Scimitar. The recordings were finally released in 1981 under that same title. … Did you know it was Carl Perkins who actually wrote “Blue Suede Shoes”?
Video: Carl Perkins talks about the legendary recording session at Sun Studios

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Compiled by John Moore, Senior Arts Journalist

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