A momentous musical meeting between (left to right) Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley powers MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, when the Broadway hit brings its national tour to the Count Basie Theatre for two Saturday shows; followed closely by legendary crooner Johnny Mathis on Sunday.
It’s the stuff that pop-music lore and legend is made of — a 1956 in-studio meeting and impromptu jam session between four young alumni of Sam Phillips’ celebrated Sun Records stable: Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis (at the time a session player who’d yet to release a record), and the Memphis label’s most earth-shaking graduate, Elvis Presley. Made all the more amazing due to its happening organically, even accidentally (and tempered by the fact that, according to recorded evidence, Cash bailed after the photo was taken), the session that would come to be called “The Million Dollar Quartet” would eventually inspire a “jukebox” style musical that would play successful engagements on Broadway, in Vegas and numerous other destinations.
When the touring production of Million Dollar Quartet arrives at the Count Basie Theatre for two shows this Saturday, March 18, it will ignore the gospel-oriented material that made up the actual session, in favor of a surefire salvo of hits that mixes the artists’ Sun-era signatures (“Blue Suede Shoes,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “I Walk the Line”) with Elvis blockbusters like “Hound Dog.”
A young cast headed by Jason Cohen, Evan Buckley Harris, Skip Robinson and Christopher Wren channels the game-changing energy of these raw talents who staked their claim at the crossroads of country and the blues. Take it here for tickets ($35 – $65) to the 3 p.m. matinee performance — and here for the 8 p.m. jam.
Even as real-life Elvis and his contemporaries were busy fine-tuning the thing that would be called rock and roll, a young Texas-born crooner by the name of Johnny Mathis would be topping the charts with an incredible string of romantic ballad hits (“Chances Are,” “It’s Not For Me to Say,” “Misty,” “Wonderful! Wonderful!”) that would come to define a new era of lounge-jazz cool and innovative arrangements in the easy-listening marketplace — staying in print for generations, and ranking right up there with Elvis on many lists of the past century’s top recording artists. Still delivering his velvety vocalizing coast-to-coast at the age of 80 (and back on the road following a health-scare sideline a few seasons back), Mathis makes a Red Bank return in the middle of his frankly astonishing 60th Anniversary Tour; a 7:30 p.m. Sunday show for which tickets ($59 – $135) are available right here.