The journey of Million Dollar Quartet (MDQ) the musical is just as amazing as the actual event that occurred on Dec. 4, 1956. In 2006 the show opened in Daytona Beach for a five week run before moving to Seattle. In Seattle at The Village Theatre the show played sold out audiences during a 10-week run.
Given the show’s success in the market, the producers decided to take the show to Chicago. Opening at the Goodman Theatre on Oct. 5, 2008 the production quickly moved to its current home the Apollo theatre where it continues to thrill audiences nightly. During the Chicago run in 2010, a second company of Million Dollar Quartet opened on Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre. This production played 500 plus performances before moving to its New York location at New World Stages where the final performance was held in June of 2012. During the Broadway run another company was formed and the show became a true international smash- hit with a London run at the Noel Coward Theatre in the West End. Toward the end of the 11 month London engagement, the producers were hard at work developing a national tour.
The fourth company of MDQ launched with a national tour in Cleveland’s Playhouse Square before embarking on a 30 plus market route. Lauded by audiences, the tour is currently heading into their second and a third year. Amid the success of the tour, Million Dollar Quartet will also launch another permanent production in Las Vegas at Harrah’s Casino and hotel.
Colin Escott the co-author of the musical’s book gives a glimpse into the evolution of Million Dollar Quartet. He is one half of the book’s author , a task he shared with Floyd Mutrux. Lets listen on what happened in select markets….oh to be a fly on the wall!
December 4, 2006: Seaside Music Theater, Daytona Beach, Florida. Performance #26 of a 33 show run coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of the original Million Dollar Quartet session. We were in Daytona to figure out if we had something. Standing in line at Will-Call to get my tickets, an elderly gentleman ahead of me gazed around as if he was in the Sistine Chapel. He wanted two tickets for that rock ‘n’ roll show he’d been told about. We’ve heard that a lot since then. Creatives, producers, friends and family came in for the fiftieth anniversary. Music director Chuck Mead got up on-stage to rock out with the cast. After the after-party, we figured we had something, but there was a lot of work to do.
October 5, 2008. Opening night at the Goodman Theatre. Looking around, I saw our show pulling together disparate talents from different places: regional theater in the DC suburbs, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Nashville roots music scene, the record business, television, Hollywood … and a Seattle guitar store. As music director Chuck Mead is fond of saying: the discipline of musical theater meets the lack of discipline of rock ‘n’ roll. Maybe that’s part of the reason audiences love us. Reviews were great and we found our crowd. On October 31 we transferred to the Apollo Theater in Lincoln Park. Several members of the original cast are still with us in other productions. Now we’re in Year Five in Chicago. Celebs and elected officials have dropped by and some have jammed with the cast.
April 11, 2010. Opening night on Broadway. So how seasoned or jaded do you have to be to shrug off the sight of the illuminated Broadway marquee for your show? This is, after all, the goal of just about everyone who writes for the stage. For our Broadway moment, we dropped in a mega-sized photo of the original quartet. It never fails to get an “Aw!” from the audience. Hell, it got an “Aw!” from me the first time it dropped. Belief suddenly needs to be suspended no more; this really happened. At the after-party, W.S. Holland, who’d been the drummer on the original session, came up to us and said, “Fellas, I got just one problem with your show. We didn’t play that good.”
September 10, 2010. Jerry Lee Lewis, the sole surviving member of the original Million Dollar Quartet, was scheduled to perform an encore with our cast. Earlier that day, he and the actor who portrayed him, Levi Kreis, talked over their favorite Bible verses. An hour or so before curtain-up, a phalanx of black-suited guys with walkie-talkies swept the theater. When everyone was seated, President Bill Clinton walked in with his newlywed wed daughter Chelsea Clinton and husband Marc Mezinsky. Standing at the back, which I’m always happy to do for a full house, I saw Clinton’s bobbing head and I’m pretty sure I saw him singing along. Backstage afterward, he met everyone in the cast and crew, bagging fifty votes if he ever decides to run for anything again. Jerry Lee performed his encore. After the audience left, he walked through the empty theater. Frail perhaps, but indomitable.
February 14-19, 2012. The national tour at the Orpheum Theater, Memphis, one mile from the Sun Studio. “God, it’s good to be in Memphis,” said our Sam Phillips (Christopher Ryan Grant). And it was. The Orpheum was sold out for eight riotous shows. A little over forty years earlier, I’d got off the Greyhound in Memphis in search of the shaking music. Downtown was still pocked and gutted from the ’68 riots. Asking, listening and watching, I tried to fathom how that bitterly polarized society birthed the sound. I truly, madly, deeply loved it all. Sun Studio was boarded up back then; Beale Street was a no-go zone. Elvis still cruised the city at night in his tinted-window Lincoln, in search of who knows what—perhaps the kid who’d run from the projects to the Sun studio the moment he got the call. In 2012, some of our cast headed for Beale Street’s reborn clubs, while others joined our Carl Perkins (Lee Ferris) at the reborn Sun Studio, helping him record a songs for an upcoming project.