Ocala Civic Theatre rocks season finale
Cast members from Million Dollar Quartet, from left: James Ray Taylor III as Johnny Cash, Jonny Williams as Elvis Presley, Scott Nadenik as Carl Perkins, Julia Pagh as Dyanne and Philip King as Jerry Lee Lewis, rehearse a scene from the play at the Ocala Civic Theatre in Ocala, Fla. on Monday, May 24, 2021. Million Dollar Quartet will be performed live on stage from May 27 to June 27, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.
One magical night in December 1956 would go down in rock ‘n’ roll history for an impromptu jam session at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee.
The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll dropped in on a recording session by the Father of Rockabilly, who was accompanied on piano by rock’s new “wild man.” When the Man in Black stopped by, he completed what a Memphis reporter would dub the “Million Dollar Quartet.”
It was the only time Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash recorded music together. The occasion was captured in an iconic black-and-white photograph that five decades later inspired the smash Broadway musical “Million Dollar Quartet.” The play is now on stage at Ocala Civic Theatre (OCT).
“This play is a party!” exclaimed Katrina Ploof, OCT artistic director, who directs the production. “The music is so, so good, and the story is wonderful. If I had to guess, most of us probably need a good party right now, and this is the big party to come to – this is the final show of our 70th season, and we didn’t get to celebrate at all. So we’re throwing our party with this play. I hope people will be dancing in the aisles by the end of it.”
Don’t say she didn’t warn you.
From the opening “One for the money…” until the guitars strike the final chord of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” – and through the impressive 20 tunes in between – your toes will be tapping. You’ll find yourself clapping along to the beat and spontaneously hootin’ and hollerin’. And, if you’re moved to jump up and twist and bop in the aisles, remember, the director said it’s OK!
Don’t – I repeat – don’t go to this play unless you want to have a good time.
It doesn’t matter whether you remember when rock was young. This extraordinarily talented cast of actor-musicians captures the essence of four icons with four distinctive sounds who made an indelible mark on modern music. Sitting in the audience feels like a backstage pass to the year’s best rock concert. Getting a glimpse into their backstories and learning how each was discovered by their producer weaves a fascinating storyline through hit after musical hit.
Jonny Williams, as Elvis Presley, gives just enough of the hip swivel that made even the most proper ‘50s girls swoon. Scott Nadenik, in his blue suede shoes, picks the rockabilly guitar licks like Carl Perkins. James Ray Taylor III, in his black ensemble complete with silver collar tips, hits the low notes like Johnny Cash. And Philip King’s flashy boogie-woogie piano riffs as Jerry Lee Lewis are truly spectacular. OCT newcomer Julia Pagh, as Presley’s girlfriend Dyanne, adds a sultry spark to the show, belting out “Fever” and harmonizing with the guys on several numbers.
“Ain’t they something?” asks record producer Sam Phillips, lovably and authentically played by Alex Dagg. “That night was the first and last night me and my boys were all together. And it really was such a night.”
“Million Dollar Quartet” runs May 27 – June 27 with socially distanced performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and a 2 p.m. show on Saturday and Sunday at the theater, 4337 E. Silver Springs Blvd. Tickets are available at ocalacivictheatre.com or by calling (352) 236-2274.