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Love Elvis, Jerry Lee, Man in Black? Go to Sonora to see how they got their start

Sierra Repertory Theatre presents "Million Dollar Quartet."
Sierra Repertory Theatre presents "Million Dollar Quartet."

One day, four soon-to-be legends — that's the backdrop for Sierra Repertory Theatre's latest musical production.

"Million Dollar Quartet" tells the story of the day that Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins gathered in 1956 for an impromptu recording session at Memphis' famed Sun Records. That historic and only meeting of the four music greats is recounted, depicting the events and songs that made the men stars.

The musical, which won a Tony Award in 2010, plays at SRT's Historic Fallon House Theatre in Columbia from March 30-May 6 with a cast that plays their own instruments live onstage.

The story follows the four legends as they gather for what would be one of the most iconic jam sessions ever.

The production brings "that legendary December night to life with an irresistible tale of broken promises, secrets, betrayal and celebrations that is both poignant and funny," according to a press release from SRT.

The jam session that spawned a new era of rock ‘n’ roll happened by chance, according to information at milliondollarquartetlive.com. At the time, Carl Perkins already had a hit record with "Blue Suede Shoes" and was at the studio to record new songs. He met Jerry Lee Lewis, who would be playing piano for him that day. Later, Elvis Presley showed up with his girlfriend and listened to them record. Soon, Elvis decided to join in, as did Johnny Cash.

The musical's score is made up of rock ‘n’ roll, gospel, R&B and country hits, including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “Walk the Line,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Who Do You Love?,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Hound Dog” and more.

"Along with plenty of humor, there is depth and authenticity in the book of this musical,” director Michael Ray Wisely said in the SRT release. "The audience gets to be in the room with a few of the most recognizable stars of their lifetimes and listen in as they struggle with the choices, successes and failures that would shape the rest of their lives and careers."

Joe Boover stars as Elvis Presley, Sean Riley as Carl Perkins, Benjamin Van Diepen as Jerry Lee Lewis and Stephen Hardy as Johnny Cash. The man behind those men and who helped to kick-start their careers was Sun Records founder Sam Phillips and he's played in the SRT production by Jeff Jeffers.

Others in the cast include Hannah Zilber as Dyanne, Chris Cerreto as Fluke/drummer and Chris McGraw as Brother Jay/bassist.

The G-rated musical made its Broadway debut in 2010. That year, original cast member Levi Kreis earned a Tony for his portrayal of Lewis. The production opened in London's West End a year later and also began touring nationally.

SRT will hold an opening night reception on Friday, March 30, when the audience will be invited to join the cast and production team at Christopher’s Ristorante at the City Hotel in Columbia State Park. A post-show talk back with Marketing Director Jerry Lee and members of the cast will be held Friday, April 27, following the performance.

"Million Dollar Quartet"

WHEN: 2 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, Saturdays-Sundays; 7 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, Marc 30-May 6

WHERE: Fallon House Theatre, 11175 Washington St, Columbia

TICKETS: $32 to $47

ONLINE: www.sierrarep.org

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