Entertainment

FST in Sarasota opens season with ‘Million Dollar Quartet’

Sarasota’s Florida Studio Theater starts its 2016-17 mainstage season with a new prduction of “The Million Dollar Quartet.”
Sarasota’s Florida Studio Theater starts its 2016-17 mainstage season with a new prduction of “The Million Dollar Quartet.” PUBLICITY PHOTO

It was almost certainly the most famous impromptu jam session in rock ’n’ roll history.

It happened 60 years ago, on Dec. 4, 1956. Four music trailblazers — Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley — all showed up, more or less coincidentally, at the Sun Music studios in Memphis and ended up playing together. A newspaper reporter dubbed the ad hoc band “The Million Dollar Quartet.” The recordings of the session leaked out over the next few decades.

A jukebox musical based on that day appeared on Broadway in 2010 and was an immediate hit. Besides a lot of great songs, it features some fascinating (and by most accounts, largely accurate) behind-the-scenes banter among the four music pioneers, in the days before they were legends.

It’s narrated by Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun records and a music legend in his own right. At the time of the show’s action, Phillips had sold Presley’s contract because Sun needed the money. Perkins had a hit with “Blue Suede Shoes,” but hadn’t had a follow-up hit. Cash was a star, and was coming to Sun to sign a contract. Newcomer Lewis came to the studio to add a keyboard part to a new Perkins record.

Sarasota’s Florida Studio Theatre starts its 2016-17 mainstage season with a new production of “The Million Dollar Quartet.” It opens Friday and runs until the end of the year. That means there will be a performance on Dec. 4, the 60th anniversary of the event.

Details: Nov. 9-Jan. 1. Gompertz Theatre at Florida Studio Theatre, 1241 N. Palm Ave, Sarasota. 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. $46. 941-366-9000, floridastudiotheatre.org.

Marty Clear: 941-708-7919, @martinclear

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