Start with Mr. "Blue Suede Shoes" Carl Perkins, and toss in the wild, rocking pianist Jerry Lee Lewis. Add in the King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley and "The Man In Black" Johnny Cash. It sounds like a mix of musical talent that would rarely collaborate, but on Dec. 4, 1956, these artists made rock and roll history.
Perkins booked a recording session to produce some new material with producer Sam Phillips at the legendary Sun Records studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Joined by Perkins, his band and Lewis, the get-together delivered an impromptu jam session with Presley and Cash and produced a collection of country and gospel songs, other musical snippets and previewed material for Presley and the artists that resulted in albums containing musical tracks and the laughter and chatter of these newfound friends sharing in their love of making music.
As word got out, a newspaper article wrote, "this quartet could sell a million," and soon after they were dubbed the "Million Dollar Quartet." Floyd Matrix utilized that title for a theatrical musical and a book co-written with Colin Scott that celebrated that event, with its first stage performance in 2006.
Capital City Productions is excited to bring this Tony Award winning musical to their local stage with professional actors for the first time Feb. 6-10 and 13-17, and the community continues to show its enthusiasm. In fact, due to the now seven sold-out performances as of press time, its run has been extended by adding a third week of shows from Feb. 20-24.
It has been several years in the making to bring this project to the Capital City Productions stage under the direction of Courtney Crouse. Having grown up in Jefferson City, Crouse was regularly around theatre as his father Rob founded Capital City Players, which is now Capital City Productions. Crouse recalled sitting in the banquet room of the old Ramada Inn before the company found its current home at Shikles Auditorium.
"I was lucky to be around people older than me and doing (theatre) for a living from a very early age. In this craft, that is the best way to learn, to be in the room with the people that are doing it have the opportunity to be around them and have questions answered, seeing their abilities I would be nothing without those experiences," he said.
Crouse graduated from Stephens College with a bachelor's degree in theatre arts and has performed and directed in and around the Chicago area since 2006. Crouse earned a nomination for Best Direction of a musical for the Joseph Jefferson "Jeff" Awards, given to theatre arts in the Chicago area, for "A Marvin Hamlisch Songbook." He has also been nominated four times and twice received the "Jeff Award" for actor in a principle role and actor in a supporting role. Since 2010, Crouse has acted at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre in Chicago, assistant directed since 2013 and currently is working as a production manager and casting director there.
Among his many acting and directing credits is "Million Dollar Quartet," in which he played Elvis Presley a year ago in Macon, Missouri.
"I have had the pleasure to both act in and direct this musical a few times in the past," he said. "It is such a wonderful story. Four iconic musicians by chance meeting up at the same place, resulting in an album where they are just jamming. It was such a wonderful moment in time."
Even though Capital City Productions had encouraged Crouse the last few years to make his directorial debut at his hometown theatre company with "Million Dollar Quartet," he decided to wait to direct the local production early this year in honor of his mother Christina, who passed away seven months ago.
"Mom liked this show a lot. she loved the music and loved watching me play guitar in it. Now that I'm thinking about it, I think 'Million Dollar Quartet' was the last show she was able to see me in before she passed away," he said. "I thought if it worked out, 2019 would seem like the right time to do it."
With his prior experience on and off stage of "Million Dollar Quartet," Crouse said he knew the style of actor needed to complete this cast. He pulled in professional actors working in the Chicago area he knew, a few of whom are reprising roles from past "Million Dollar Quartet" performances.
One such actor is Patrick Martin, who has and will play Carl Perkins. Martin's acting credits include Jim in "Pump Boys and Dinettes" at Timber Lake Playhouse, HMS Pinafore with The Hypocrites at Actors Theatre of Louisville, "Promises Promises" and "The Drowsy Chaperone" at STAGES St. Louis. He also has appeared in multiple productions throughout Chicago, including working with Crouse in "South Pacific" at the Marriott Theatre.
Crouse has also worked with Chris Logan, who is playing Jerry Lee Lewis, a lot. Logan has numerous Chicago area acting credits including Jeff Award nominations for actor in a supporting rolle for Murder Ballad and actor in a principle role for "The Boy from Oz." He has also traveled the world with Royal Caribbean Productions and is a Jeff Award nominated choreographer.
Grant Alexander Brown, who plays Sun Records producer Sam Phillips, is also a Mid-Missouri native like Crouse. In fact, the friends have known each other for a long time and work at the same company. Born in Columbia, Brown said his favorite credits include "Spring Awakening," "VOTE! A New Musical," "Jane Eyre" and "Mary Poppins."
Working in his hometown of Chicago, Dominick Alesia, who plays Johnny Cash, became the first student to perform an entirely original musical at Roosevelt University, Alesia then participated in many productions, sometimes as a writer and often as an actor. Recent credits include "Hair" and "Twelfth Night."
"Million Dollar Quartet" will mark the second production award from Jacob Barton's home state. The recent Chicago transplant will play Elvis Presley, but has many acting credits in his resume, including "My Fair Lady," "Spamalot," "Footloose," "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."
His fiancé Taylor Kraft will reprise her role as Dyanne for the second time, first being with Theatre Raleigh in her hometown of North Carolina. Most recent credits include "Christmas Kaleidoscope" with Timber Lake Playhouse and an original work, "Wicked Frozen" at The Second City in Chicago.
"Million Dollar Quartet" not only depicts the epic jam session, it is filled with rock hits including "Blue Suede Shoes," Fever," "That's All Right," "Sixteen Tons," "Great Balls of Fire," "Walk the Line," "Who Do You Love?" "Matchbox," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Hound Dog" and many more. These actors can deliver their lines and musical talent that embodies these historic musicians.
"I was able to find some professional actors that are great musicians as well. It just adds a different element to the production. For this type of show, it is all about repetition and patience, these actors were able to pick it up right away," he said. "I have such a great feeling about this show and working with this amazing group of actors."
Having only three and a half days to rehearse the show at Capital City Productions with the locally built set and crew, Crouse knows it sounds a bit unorthodox. However, he believes with the talents of his professional cast and the hard work the Capital City Productions team puts into each show, he knows seeing "Million Dollar Quartet" in his hometown will be a priceless experience.
"I am thrilled to bring this show to Jeff City, and I hope everyone comes out and enjoys it," he said.
As of press time, tickets are still available for production-only shows at 7 p.m. Feb. 6, 13 and 20, and 12:30 p.m. Feb. 10, 17 and 24. Dinner is served during available evening performances at 6 p.m. Feb. 21, 22 and 23 and matinees at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 9 and 23. Dinner, provided by Argyle Catering, includes "A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" homemade buttermilk fried chicken, hand sliced "Grey Balls of Fire" slow-roasted BBQ beef brisket, oven melted "You Give Me Fever" au gratin cheesy potatoes, Perkins country ham and onion stewed green beans, buttery "Ring of Fire" corn on the cob, "Put On Your Blue Suede Shoes" Waldorf southern cole slaw, freshly baked Elvis's shortcake topped with real whipped cream and fresh from the field strawberries, and homemade rolls and churched butter. Coffee, tea and lemonade will be served, but guests of age are invited to bring their favorite libation.
To purchase tickets or for more information, call 573-681-9612 or visit ccpjc.org.