The Performing Arts and Concert Series closed its main shows with Tony-award winning musical "Million Dollar Quartet." 

There was a “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” in Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium on Thursday night.

The Performing Arts and Concert Series put on Million Dollar Quartet, the Tony Award-winning musical that recounts the one and only day that rock ‘n’ roll legends Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded together in the studio that launched their careers — Sam Phillips’ Sun Record Company.

Over the course of the show, set on Dec. 4, 1956, the musicians played more than 20 songs, including now-classics like “Great Balls of Fire,” as well as spirituals like “Down by the Riverside.”

As the show closed, Phillips took a photo of the quartet, and a photo of the real-life musicians together appeared above the stage.

“It really ties it altogether,” Skip Robinson, who plays Elvis, said of the photo drop that had the audience in awe. “It’s a really cool moment.”

The audience's awe quickly was replaced by thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

After curtain call, there was a shift from show mode to concert mode as gold jackets descended for the musicians. Each artist sang a popular tune from his repertoire: “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley, “Ghost Riders in the Sky” by Johnny Cash, “See You Later Alligator” by Carl Perkins and an encore of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” by Jerry Lee Lewis.

“During the studio, as Elvis, I’m not doing a performance Elvis. Because this is Elvis amongst his friends. A lot of stuff’s happening at Sun Records,” Robinson said. “As opposed to the end of the concert where I’m really trying to give a show and really trying to hit all those Elvis marks that people really identify with. … We’re playing to the audience at the end of the show.”

During “Hound Dog,” Elvis wiped his face on a towel and gave it — along with a kiss on the cheek — to an audience member in the front row.

That audience member was Anne Cooper-Chen, a journalism professor emerita.

“I made eye contact, that’s the key,” she said. “I was so excited!”

Robinson said choosing an audience member for the bit is a “selection process.”

“Throughout the show I’ll be looking, especially at the end when we’re starting to do our finale. I’m looking to see who’s clapping,” he said. “Originally, I was gonna get her friends, but then she just stood up and I was like ‘yep, you’re done, that’s it.’ … She was great. She shot up as soon as I pointed to her, she got the whole thing. So it seemed to work out really nicely today.”

Cooper-Chen said she remembers listening to Elvis in junior high school, and Robinson’s Elvis reminded her of Elvis in his good days — the ’50s and ’60s.

“His cheek was very cool,” she said. “I thought it would be, like, sweaty, but he was somehow cool.”

Robinson said the success of not just “Hound Dog” but of Million Dollar Quartet depends on audience participation and rowdiness.

“It’s a tough show to do, especially at the end, when we have a crowd that’s maybe not so into it,” he said. “A lot of it thrives on energy, and when we feel good energy, you’re just gonna get a better show, that’s just the nature of the beast. But I definitely felt like (the audience) gave a lot, so we gave a lot back.”

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Nearly 1,100 tickets were sold for the show, according to Andrew Holzaepfel, the senior associate director of the Campus Involvement Center.

Cooper-Chen has had first-row tickets to the Performing Arts and Concert Series for about 10 years, and though she had never heard of Million Dollar Quartet, she enjoyed it.

“It was like one picture, like one moment, and it was history,” she said. “It was a great way to end the season.”


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