Scenic & Lighting Designer
Million Dollar Quartet
Clarence Brown Theatre - 2019
Written by: Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux
Director: Kate Buckley
Scene Design: Katherine Stepanek
Lighting Design: Kirk Bookman
Costume Design: Lauren Roark
Sound Designer: Bart Fasbender
Photographer: Brynn Yeager
Sun Studio. Memphis, Tennessee. The birthplace of Rock’n’Roll. In the 50’s, “Father of Rock’n’Roll” Sam Phillips collected a ragtag bunch of musicians at his auto shop-turned-recording studio in an attempt to create a new kind of sound, a new genre of music.
Then, on December 4, 1956, a twist of fate brought together his most successful artists: Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis, for an impromptu recording session, creating the “Million Dollar Quartet.” This musical combines the revolutionising hit records with the heartbreaking, nerve-wracking story of Sun Studio on the verge of falling apart, losing everything Phillips has worked so hard to accomplish.
This particular production deviates from the traditional interpretation of this musical. It is less a musical review, and more a telling of the heart and soul of Studio, of Sam Phillips. Combining theatrical elements with detailed replications, the interior of Sun Studio is recreated; the audience sees just how much of his own soul Phillips poured into his work, into the music. Legendary elements appear on stage, like the large guitar hanging over the front door, and the acoustic tiles that Phillips hung by hand.
The concert at the end of the show imagines what these artists would have developed if they were still performing today. Truss with moving lights and audience blinders flies in, and the whole stage transforms with hidden tricks, from the chase lights inside the platforms to the LEDs behind the acoustic tiles. Without a break in the show, the whole stage is converted from a poor, downtrodden studio to a flashy, colorful concert venue.
Million Dollar Quartet is the real history of Phillips’ struggle in losing his famous artists as they grow beyond him and his studio, combined with the songs of these legendary icons. The production captures the contagious spirit, freewheeling excitement, and thrilling sounds of the once-in-a-life-time event where four of music’s best talents came together.