Rehearsals are well underway for the West End Theatre Project’s upcoming production of Million Dollar Quartet, a jukebox musical which is set to hit the stage at the Sault Community Theatre Centre at the end of the month.
Based on true events, the show highlights the famous Dec. 4, 1956 recording session at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee when early rock and roll/country stars Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis came together.
Featuring a cast of just eight individuals, Million Dollar Quartet director Lucas Beaver says he’s never done this kind of show before.
“People know the artists who are involved in the show and their music,” he says. “People might not know the title of the show, but they’ll know the names and the music, so we’re trying to push that.”
Featuring 22 songs in an hour and a half, Beaver says the show is unique as all but one of the performers both act and play an instrument.
“I picked a show where actors have to play the instruments,” he says. “As far as I know, this is the first of its kind in Sault Ste. Marie. There’s been other shows where musicians play the instruments on stage, but they’re not acting as well.”
“There’s no pit band, they’re all characters, and they all have lines.”
Despite there being just eight roles to fill, Beaver noted the show was slightly more difficult to cast compared to bigger productions he’s been a part of.
“Normally when we do a show, we have actors who we may have to teach to dance and sing,” he says. “But from this side, it’s musicians we need to teach to act, so it’s a whole new angle.”
“It’s the perfect show if you’re not a musical theatre person. This would be the show to come to because it’s literally a concert – there’s no jazz hands in this show,” he laughed.
Playing the role of Johnny Cash, guitarist Jeffrey Wright says this is the first time he’s ever been involved with a theatre production.
“It’s all new for me,” he says. “I’m playing with guys I’ve never performed with before. But the big thing is everybody has been really supportive. It’s been a great experience so far.”
Coincidentally, Wright had studied up on Johnny Cash before auditions opened up for Million Dollar Quartet, and when he discovered the role was available, he knew it was something he wanted to do.
“It just felt right,” he says. “I like to try new things, and this gets me out of my comfort zone.”
Also newer to the stage is Stephen Boniffero, who will be playing the role of Sun Records director Sam Phillips.
Having performed in two shows previous to Million Dollar Quartet, Boniffero says this production is unlike anything he’s ever done.
“It’s different not having the pit band in front of us,” he says. “All the music is on the stage, so I’m excited to see how the audience responds to that.”
Inspired by his daughter to get into theatre, Boniffero says he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“With the other kinds of shows, there’s tons of people and lots of singing and dancing,” he says. “Here, there’s eight of us. It’ll be interesting to experience it in this context instead of what we’ve done before.”
Cast members are now in the final stages of rehearsals at the SK Group.
Million Dollar Quartet runs from Mar. 30 to Apr. 1 at the Sault Community Theatre Centre (White Pines) beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are available at the SCTC box office in the Station Mall and online.
- Carl Perkins - Liam Pollock Seymour
- Johnny Cash - Jeffrey Wright
- Jerry Lee Lewis - Leo Moore
- Elvis Presley - Tom Peer
- Sam Phillips - Stephen Boniferro
- Dyanne (Elvis’ girlfriend) - Brianna Niro
- Brother Jay - Marshall Jaaskelainen
- Fluke - Jaime Jacques
- Lucas Beaver - Director
- Rony Dal Cin - Musical Director
- Valerie Pluss - Producer
- Kristine Thomas - Stage Manager
- Betty Currie - Asst. Stage Manager
- Trudy DeGraw - Asst. Stage Manager