The Million Dollar Quartet could have a future in this business.
The musical of that name opened at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts for an audience at the 2,050-seat Reynolds Hall that seemed about to capacity. A couple of Caesars Entertainment officials were in that audience, either gauging the show’s long-term viability on the Strip or maybe just in need of a cool Tuesday-night hang.
Whichever, there is speculation that the show does have a future in Las Vegas beyond its seven-show run at the Smith Center, which ends Sunday night (venture to the Smith Center website for show and ticket info). As my colleague, the ubiquitous Robin Leach has reported (to no official denials from Caesars Entertainment execs), the speculated show shuffle would end the nearly 30-year Strip run of “Legends in Concert,” staged for more than two decades at Imperial Palace and, for the past seven years, at Harrah’s. That show’s final scheduled date is Sept. 30. “Million Dollar Quartet” would then move into Harrah’s in October and “Legends” to the Rio, another Caesars Entertainment property.
It’s a tantalizing prospect, to say the least. “Quartet” has mass appeal, as its well-attended Tuesday night premiere reinforced. But it is not a “Legends”-fashioned series of impressionists. It is a scripted musical, where the characters actually interact with one another in a recounting of the night of Dec. 4, 1956, when Sam Phillips’ four superstars — Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis — turned up to jam at Sun Studios in Memphis.
The man who plays the role of Lewis is hardly a hillbilly. Martin Kaye is from Manchester, England, who has performed in such productions as “Sweet Charity,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “A Chorus Line” and “Assassins.”
“We never want to turn it into an impression show,” he said Tuesday afternoon after a sneak preview of the show at the Hard Rock Cafe on Harmon Avenue and Paradise Road. “Apart from Cody (Slaughter, who plays Elvis), who just naturally looks like Elvis, has the moves and is Elvis — apart from him, we’re just trying to capture the essence of these guys, why they did what they did, why they play the way they played, and why they sang the way they sang.”
“I mean, what happened back then was a revolution. What we’re trying is not to be them but represent them.”
As Kaye notes, the four musicians onstage come from varied backgrounds. Slaughter is the reigning Elvis Presley Enterprises’ Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist champion and is ideal for that portrayal.
“We are a rock ’n’ roll band, just touring the country,” Kaye said. “We’ve all come from different walks of life and different forms of music. Lee Ferris, who plays Carl Perkins, comes from an opera background. I come from a more poppy, jazzy background. Cody is from an Elvis background (laughs). Derek Keeling (Johnny Cash) comes from a country background.”
“It’s the most fun I’ve had in a long time, maybe ever.”
And maybe that fun will continue, for a long time, on the Strip.