The musical “Million Dollar Quartet” will be staged at Popejoy Hall from Thursday, June 4 through Sunday, June 7. Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets range from $32.50 to $75 and are available in advance through ticket offices in the UNM Bookstore and at the University Arena, at area Albertsons supermarkets, by calling 925-5858 or 877-664-8661 or by visiting http://www.unmtickets.com or at the door.
By David Steinberg
It was a remarkable, historic and accidental convergence of legends. And it happened only once, on Dec. 4, 1956.
Four legends of rock ’n’ roll – Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins – ended up together at a recording session at Sun Records in Memphis, Tenn.
The event has been called one of the greatest rock ’n’ roll jam sessions ever.
The famous songs from that session are woven into the musical “Million Dollar Quartet” that a national touring company is presenting Thursday, June 4 through Sunday, June 7 at Popejoy Hall.
Songs like “Hound Dog,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “See Ya Later, Alligator,” “and “I Walk the Line.”
Though Sun Record’s Sam Phillips brought the four musicians together, Laura Stuart Obenauf referred to it as an “improvised” recording session in a phone interview.
“It started as Carl Perkins’ session that Jerry Lee happened to be playing piano on. Johnny Cash stopped in. And Elvis was in town so he stopped in… So this recording session came out of it,” said Obenauf, who portrays the lone female in the small cast.
The female is a mysterious woman who happened to be present at the event.
“There was a woman in the iconic photograph (of the session), but when they wrote the show they didn’t know who she was,” Obenauf said.
In the production coming to Popejoy she portrays character of Dyanne.
“They thought she was just lost to history. But when the show started getting press, she stepped forward to say that she was the lady at the event.”
The woman’s real name is Marilyn Evans, Obenauf said.
“She and Elvis met in Las Vegas where she was working as a dancer, I believe. They drove across the country together and they stopped in for the Sun Records studio session,” she said.
In the show, Obenauf sings two solos, “Fever” and “I Hear Ya Knockin’’” with the quartet backing her on both.
“I have quite a bit of dialogue with Sam Phillips. We talk a lot about Elvis, about the possibility of Sam going to RCA to work with Elvis again. … When he finds out that Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash are leaving Sun Records, Dyanne encourages Sam to keep going, doing what he’s been doing since he’s the best at creating the music he’s trying to create,” Obenauf said.
Besides the dialogue, she said, her role demands a lot of singing and dancing.
Obenauf was invited to take the part last January after working as the understudy in the Chicago cast of “Million Dollar Quartet” for 18 months.
The musical opened in Chicago in 2008 and it is still running there. Starting in April 2010, it was on Broadway for almost two years. It received a Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical and received Tony nominations for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical.
Obenauf has appeared in a number of Chicago and regional stage productions. But “‘Million Dollar Quartet’ is the biggest production I’ve ever been a part of. So its very exciting,” she said.
Asked why the show is still going strong in Chicago, Obenauf thinks it’s a combination of factors.
“it’s timeless. It’s thrilling to watch the group of people who are acting and playing their own instruments,” she said.
It’s a very different type of theater experience. It’s kind of a combination of a rock concert and a theater piece. …
“You watch the musician-actors tell this historic story. The musical portrays them as icons. But to learn about each of their lives, their history and come together for this one time, I think is very exciting for audiences,” she added.
The actors are Jake Rowley as Elvis Presley, Scott Moreau as Johnny Cash, Colte Julian as Jerry Lee Lewis, Gabe Boling as Carl Perkins, and Bryan Langlitz as Sam Phillips.