This is a particularly frustrating failure, because it could have been the greatest jukebox musical of the decade if it had only had the talent to do justice to its premise. This is a show based on the one legendary night when Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins were all in the same recording studio.
The show makes no attempt to be historically accurate about that recording session…on the actual session tapes, Cash is barely discernible, and the performers mostly recorded hymns and spirituals, while the show has them singing their signature hits…but that didn’t really matter. A certain amount of historical license was completely understandable and justified for the sake of giving us a better show.
What actually did the show in was the casting. The four leading singer-actors were nobodies, musical-theater journeymen who didn’t have remotely the star power, charisma or musical talent to portray the living legends they were playing. The result wasn’t quite Vegas-style Elvis-impersonator bad, but it was distinctly and fatally underwhelming (although Levi Kreis as Jerry Lee Lewis did slightly better than the other three).
With performers who were qualified to play these parts (and yes, they do exist, as witness Joaquin Phoenix’s performance in Walk the Line), this could have been mind-blowing; as it is, its failure is well-deserved, and I’m genuinely surprised that they even bothered to record it. It wasn’t the worst jukebox musical of its era, but it definitely stands as the most disappointing.