For anyone who loves classic rock 'n' roll, December 4, 1956, is a sacred date. Early in the day, Carl Perkins went into Sun Records (the hallowed Memphis studio) to work on new material. There, the owner of Sun Records, Sam Phillips, lined up a then-relatively unknown piano man, Jerry Lee Lewis, to sit in on Perkins' session. In the early afternoon, though, Elvis Presley stopped into the studio to say hello to Phillips; he heard Perkins (and Lewis) playing and got in on an impromptu jam. Shortly into the session, Johnny Cash — who was just starting to gain a little fame — came into the studio, heard the racket, and joined Presley, Perkins, and Lewis to jam on some gospel, country, and rockabilly. Fortunately, Phillips kept the tapes running on what would be called The Million Dollar Quartet.
The story has always loomed large in rock 'n' roll history and lends itself to the basis of a good jukebox musical. With a book by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott, and music arranged by Chuck Mead, "Million Dollar Quartet" opened on Broadway in 2010. Of course, the musical takes some liberties with the original story (the production builds its setlist from the early hits of each artist), but all of the players are there: Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins meet by chance in Sam Phillips' studio and start a riot.
Geva Theatre Center (75 Woodbury Boulevard) is closing its 2016-17 Wilson Stage season with "Million Dollar Quartet." The production is now onstage through Sunday, July 2. Tickets start at $25. For specific dates and times, call 232-4382 or go online to gevatheatre.org.