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Chicago Goes To Broadway. Again.

By Suzy Evans in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 9, 2009 9:40PM

We really hope the Nederlander Theatre isn’t cursed, like we said last week. After the fateful closing of Cromer’s plays, another Chicago show will fill the theater. Million Dollar Quartet, which celebrated its one-year anniversary at the Apollo Theater last Thursday, is making the Broadway transfer in the spring.

This power-packed show is a huge Chicago hit, but can it successfully move to a theater almost three times its size? Another Memphis-set musical just opened on Broadway last month, and Million Dollar Quartet thrives on the intimacy of the space at the Apollo. Tribune critic Chris Jones thinks the book needs a few tweaks, and we have to agree. The story is a little bit flat, and the amazing music acts as a bit of a crutch for a weak plot.

Based on a real night in the 1950’s, four superstars - Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Cark Perkins - get together at legendary music producer Sam Phillips’ Sun Records recording studio for one final night of good cheer before drama ensues. But who really cares about the drama when you know everyone is just going to sing again anyway?

However, we doubted Letts could reshape Superior Donuts for Broadway, and that seems to be doing quite well. And in the end, we really didn’t care much that the music made up for the weaker elements because the sound was electrifying. It was one of the most lively and entertaining nights we’ve spent in the theater in a long time. We kind of wish we hadn’t been confined to our seats and could have gotten up to dance.

The actors portraying the famous foursome could give the originals a run for their money. Chris Jones called Levi Kreis (Jerry Lee Lewis) “a star ready to pop,” but he’s really ready to explode. His piano playing in one of the final songs was more of a back-bend, balancing act, and somehow, he still got all the notes right. Seriously, the galaxy should watch out. And Lance Guest’s Johnny Cash is better than any we’ve ever seen, and Guest is one of the stronger actors in the group who does manage to evoke our sympathy.

Governor Pat Quinn made an appearance for the anniversary on Thursday and also plans to go to the New York opening in April. (At least it’s not Blago. Then the curse would really set in.) Producers say the show will keep running in Chicago, but who knows if the cast will stay the same. We’d be surprised if at least of few of the main players didn’t make the New York move.