Who’s up for some good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll music? In a town populated largely by baby boomers, chances are a lot of people, who should probably enjoy Great Balls of Fire, now onstage at Florida Studio Theatre’s Court Cabaret.
As you can tell from the title, this musical revue (about 80 minutes or so in length) centers on the original bad boy of rock, Jerry Lee Lewis, but that’s not to say you won’t get to hear some hits from Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and Little Richard as well. It’s a reminder of the early days of the genre, and it’s amazing how fresh and alive those tunes can still sound, 60 years later.
Jason Cohen stars at the piano in Jerry Lee fashion, introducing the show and his fellow musicians, all of whom get to display their multiple talents during the evening. Of course, Cohen demonstrates some typical Lewis keyboard skills, such as employing his feet and playing with his hands behind his back. But Nathan Yates Douglass also gets to flip his big bass around, while Luke Darnell does some fancy guitar work, Justin Brown switches from saxophone to piccolo to clarinet with ease, and Jon Rossi goes all out on drums, as well as delivering some of the show’s intentionally corny jokes.
The dialogue/banter helps provide a segue at times, but it’s definitely not why you come to see the show, and Lewis fans will probably already know such details as Cohen provides on the rocker’s Louisiana background and personality. It’s really all about the songs here, which amply show the contrast between Jerry Lee’s hard-rocking side (“Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On,” “Shake, Rattle and Roll”), his softer country sounds (“Crazy Arms,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”) and the gospel music that was a big part of his upbringing (“Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “I’ll Fly Away”).
Through it all, the five onstage deliver impressive musicianship, both on their instruments and in their vocals, along with a seemingly good camaraderie and appreciation for the songs they play. Everyone will have their favorite moments from the show; I remember Darnell on “Blue Suede Shoes,” Douglass on “No Particular Place to Go” and “You Send Me,” and Cohen on “Johnny B. Goode” and, naturally, the show’s title number. It’s great when they all harmonize together as well, on those gospel tunes or a Big Easy medley.
Cohen, a frequent portrayer of Lewis in productions of Million Dollar Quartet, co-created this show with Michael Schiralli, and musical arrangements are by Cohen and the cast. It’s a lot of fun to watch and hear, and it runs through Aug. 29. For tickets, call (941) 366-9000 or go to floridastudiotheatre.org.