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REVIEW: Thrilling Million Dollar Quartet Jukebox Ride (Old Log Theater)

L-R: David Beukema, Armando Ronconi, Eric Sargent, Kyle Baker, Myia Ann Butler, Elijah Leer, Mitchell Dallman in the Old Log Theater’s new production of Million Dollar Quartet. Photo courtesy of the Old Log Theater.

You should eat a full dinner and tend to your personal business before seeing Million Dollar Quartet at the Old Log. Once this musical rollercoaster of a jukebox starts going, you’re not going to want to step out mid-song – and while there’s a lot of dialogue in the gaps, the hits don’t stop until the lights turn off.

Million Dollar Quartet opened at the Old Log Theater in Excelsior on Saturday. This dramatization of a real-life, 1957 jam session at the now-legendary Sun Records Studio is a vibrant blast from the past filled with thrilling music and clashing personalities. The real-life session was unplanned, but ended up featuring Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash – each now rock-and-roll legends in their own right – and the title comes from an article about the session that was covered in a local paper. So far, so historical.

L-R: Armando Ronconi, Myia Ann Butler, Elijah Leer, Eric Sargent, Mitchell Dallman, and Kyle Baker. Photo courtesy of the Old Log Theater.

In the current production directed by Christine O’Grady, Million Dollar Quartet features an 8-person cast, most notably featuring David Beukema (Sam Phillips), Armando Harlow Ronconi (Elvis Presley), Elijah Leer (Jerry Lee Lewis), Eric Sargent (Johny Cash), and Myia Ann Butler (Dyanne – a dramatization; in real life, Elvis’s girlfriend Marilyn Evans was present, but biographers were unable to track down until after the show was written, hence the fictionalization). Kyle Baker and Spencer Schoeneman round out the cast as background session musicians with more than a few tricks up their sleeves.

The five actors playing rock stars embody their characters with convincing verisimilitude; Leer’s piano-pounding, driving performance as the spitfire Jerry Lee Lewis is a special standout.Although the show is filled with little anecdotes of music history trivia to reward fans, the big driver is not the plot, but the re-enactment of the stars and seeing their energies clash and resonate onstage. In this, the Old Log’s revival excels. By the 3rd song, you know that you’re on a rollercoaster ride to the finish.

Million Dollar Quartet runs at the Old Log Theater in Excelsior, MN through February 17, 2024.

Basil Considine