Arts & Culture

Review: ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ a chance to reminisce

Jordan Sturm Photography

“Who do you love?”

If you’re a big fan of the oldies, you’ll certainly love the actors portraying Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins in “Million Dollar Quartet,” now playing at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina on Hilton Head Island.

Riding off the success of works like “Jersey Boys,” this musical is a step back in time to the famous recording session at Sun Studio on the night of Dec. 4, 1956.

This isn’t that stuffy Italian opera version of “Cinderella,” you were forced to attend in the fifth grade because your music teacher wanted to make you and your peers “cultured.” “Million Dollar Quartet” is a fun, lively and casual production meant to rouse some laughs and jog a couple memories for those who were around back in the day.

From the personal mannerisms to the style in which they played their instruments, the actors went all out to embody these great musicians.

Jeremy Sevelovitz (Cash) and Luke Darnell (Perkins) both mastered the ability to play the guitar like the original rockers.

John Countryman (Lewis) might give Lady Gaga a run for her money with that epic leg hike on the piano.

I can just see Christopher Fordinal (Presley) practicing those iconic hip-shaking dance moves somewhere backstage.

Even Colin Ryan’s portrayal of humble Sun Studio owner Sam Phillips is charismatic, despite being the only character that doesn’t contribute to the live music.

But the woman of the hour, Elizabeth DeRosa (Dyanne), received the loudest applause from audience members for her rendition of “Fever.” It was the perfect addition to what otherwise would be a boys’ club.

Delivery of certain monologues could use work, though. Some stomps of the feet and angry walks off the stage seem a little overdone. And it’s a wonder why alcoholism is poked and prodded throughout the script, but the major drug addictions of Cash and Presley are never mentioned.

Nevertheless it’s the live music that people were truly excited about.

Take the encore, for instance.

Watching Fordinal serenade an audience member during his final performance was the highlight of my night. No one was more excited than a woman in the front row who received a silk scarf from the King himself, and I was honored that I got to witness such a scene.

Even better were the theater attendants throwing it old school with a couple of swing dance moves in the aisle.

There was plenty of entertainment on behalf of the actors and audience members, and watching them interact made me realize something: The actors and myself — all members of a younger generation — can’t fully comprehend what this show means to the older members of the audience.

Now before you assume I walked into this show as a completely clueless millennial, I’m fairly educated about the musical talents of all these stars.

A road trip for me wouldn’t feel complete without at least one play-through of “ELV1S: 30 #1 Hits.” My father, whose name is also Jerry Lee, played Cash exclusively for months after the release of the motion picture “Walk the Line” in 2005. And really, who doesn’t love the rockabilly classic “Blue Suede Shoes”?

I was humming along with the rest of the crowd. But no matter how many songs I know or how many times I reread Cash’s love letters to June Carter, I’m not able to truly understand in the way that those who lived it can.

This show was simply a musical production for me, but it’s a memory for others.

Until I’m in my late 70s dragging my grandchildren to a musical about NSYNC or Drake, I’ll have no idea what it’s like to have a tsunami of nostalgia wash over me when a guy too young to know the songs of my youth firsthand performs them perfectly.

This show may not seem to be for all ages at first glance, but it’s a chance for older generations to come and reminisce while the youngsters can learn a thing or two.

Madison Hogan: 843-706-8137, @MadisonHogan

If you go

When: Now through July 30

Where: Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, 14 Shelter Cove Lane, HHI

Tickets: $47 for adults, $33 for children