'Million Dollar Quartet' Rocks With Style At Seven Angels

Rock 'n' roll is here to stay. So is "Million Dollar Quartet," the stage musical about some of the earliest heroes of that hallowed art form.

The show was a Broadway and off-Broadway hit from 2010-11. National tours have visited Connecticut half a dozen times (with another coming in 2018 — a one-nighter at The Bushnell March 8). Ivoryton Playhouse produced it in June, and now Seven Angels Theater has it through Nov. 26.

There's good rockin' tonight. Each of the stars in the Seven Angels cast has done "Million Dollar Quartet" before, though not together. They form a proficient band, powering through two dozen seminal rock classics. But it's their varying styles that give this production a sharp sense of conflict and unpredictability. It's appropriate for a show about wild egos, wavering loyalties and the trials of pleasing a fickle public.

The show documents the historic jam session of Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis on Dec. 4, 1956, in Sun Studios, the place where all these artists got their start. Some of the major turning points in the rockers' careers (not to mention the fortunes of Sun Studios honcho Sam Phillips, who narrates the show and witnesses the jam) are conflated so that they can all be discussed on this one fateful night.

Elvis is trying to entice Phillips to give up Sun and work with him at RCA Records. Perkins has been having trouble scoring a major hit since "Blue Suede Shoes." Cash is about to leave Sun for Columbia Records, ostensibly because Phillips won't let him record a gospel album. Jerry Lee Lewis, a recent signing to Sun, is all swagger and sass, hiding some major insecurities.

As written by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, the members of this quirky quartet complement each other well. So do the men playing them at Seven Angels. Jeremy Sevelovitz is a powerful lead guitarist and gives Carl Perkins the muttering dignity of a truck driver.

Sky Seals is a strong rhythm guitarist and is the best mimic in the show, mastering the intricacies of Johnny Cash's singing style. The single-named Cole strums acoustic well and captures Elvis' genteel charm.

Dominique Scott, the only one playing keyboards, is the show's music director and also sets the pace of the frantic studio one-upmanship as Mr. "whole lotta shakin'" himself, Jerry Lee Lewis. Scott brings a punk physicality to the role.

Besides the four rock 'n' rollers, their producer Phillips (buttoned-down Jason Laughlin), and an invaluable rhythm section of bassist Perry Orfanella and longtime Seven Angels house drummer Mark Ryan, the only other role in "Million Dollar Quartet" is the thankless one of Elvis' girlfriend, played by a bright, smiley Teresa Danskey.

"Million Dollar Quartet" is a well-constructed piece of theater, although you're never hoodwinked into thinking this is a live concert, no matter how hard the players try. But "Million Dollar Quartet" is a showcase for some solid actors who want to rock, and a valuable history lesson about how revolutions are never easy, even when they're musical ones.

THE MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, directed by Semina DeLaurentis, plays through Nov. 26 at Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury. $42-$58. 203-757-4676, sevenangelstheatre.org.

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