Monday, March 20, 2023     Volume: 24, Issue: 3

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on June 26th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 17 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 17

PCPA presents an electrifying production of Million Dollar Quartet


The Pacific Conservatory Theatre’s (PCPA) latest production is truly one in a million, and I’m not just saying that because the word million is in the title. A big part of what makes Million Dollar Quartet, now showing at the Marian Theatre in Santa Maria, so unique is the way it utilizes music—not from a recording or live orchestra, but from the actors themselves. 

Jerry Lee Lewis (Billy Rude) shares his ambitions with singer Dyanne (Charlotte Campbell) and bassist Jay Perkins (James Gallardo).

“It celebrates the making of music. The experience of jamming together, creating something live right there, and sharing it with each other, it’s a feeling you’ll never find in a recording.” the show’s director Kitty Balay said in press materials, describing why she wanted to tackle the Tony Award-winning musical.

The entire play takes place in the course of one night, Dec. 4, 1956, when divine happenstance brought four legendary performers together for an impromptu jam session. That was the evening Johnny Cash (Bill Scott Sheets), Jerry Lee Lewis (Billy Rude), Carl Perkins (Christopher Wren), and the King himself, Elvis Presley (Nick Voss), were in the same room together at their mutual alma mater, Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee—the first label to ever record each artist. As far as history is concerned, it’s the only known occurrence of the four superstars ever playing together.

Walk the line
The Pacific Conservatory Theatre (PCPA) presents its production of Million Dollar Quartet through Saturday, June 29, at the Marian Theatre, located at Allan Hancock College, 800 S. College Dr., Santa Maria. The show moves to the Solvang Festival Theater, located at 420 2nd St., Solvang, starting Friday, July 5 and through Sunday, July 28. Tickets range from $38 to $62. Call (805) 922-8313 or visit for more info.

As for the cast, I honestly can’t recall a more energetic performance in recent memory than Rude’s take on Lewis; it easily steals the show. He doesn’t just play the piano, he treats it like a jungle gym; perfectly inhabiting the unpredictability of  “rock ’n’ roll’s first great wildman.” Sheets’ Cash is also spot-on, and both Voss and Wren are equally as genuine as Presley and Perkins, respectively. 

Aside from the titular quartet, the cast also includes Scott Fuss, who gives a beautifully conflicted performance as Samuel Cornelius Phillips, the founder of Sun Records. On one hand he’s extremely happy for the four artists’ successes, but on the other afraid they’ll eventually ditch him for a bigger label. 

Nick Voss plays rock legend Elvis Presley in PCPA’s Million Dollar Quartet.

Charlotte Campbell is also terrific as the musical’s only fictional character, a singer named Dyanne. In the play, Dyanne is Presley’s girlfriend and accompanies him to the studio that winter evening (although historically, dancer Marilyn Evans was Presley’s girlfriend at the time). Taking a creative liberty in this instance allows the character to join the quartet for more than a few numbers, including “Fever” and “I Hear You Knocking”—both of which she provides the lead vocals for. 

Scott Fuss plays Samuel Cornelius Phillips, the founder of Sun Records—the first label to ever record Presley, Cash, Lewis, and Perkins.

Hearing and watching the actors sing and perform their own instruments makes for a truly immersive experience; it basically feels more like a real rock concert than a staged musical. There’s even an encore scene (sorry, tiny spoiler), where bassist Jay Perkins (James Gallardo) and drummer W.S. “Fluke” Holland (Robert Brandon) ramp the audience up for the quartet’s return to the stage to perform a few more hits, including “Hound Dog” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”. 

It’s just a rockin’ good time. Voss even gives away one of his Elvis scarves to a lucky member in the audience. I’m definitely gonna try nabbing that seat the second time I see it. 

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood is still tapping his feet. Contact him at

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