Sometimes it takes fate to create magic. On December 4, 1956, a spontaneous meeting of four rock 'n roll legends at Sun Records in Memphis resulted in a magical recording known as Million Dollar Quartet. Carl Perkins was in the studio recording with little known Jerry Lee Lewis on piano, when Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash dropped by. The four men ended up spending hours singing and cutting up — most of which was recorded.
Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet recreates that historic jam session that had a young Lewis, Perkins, Cash and Presley trading tunes including "Blue Suede Shoes," "That's All Right," "Great Balls of Fire," "Walk the Line," "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," “Folsom Prison Blues" and "Hound Dog." The jukebox musical will take audiences back to the time when rock 'n roll was born during its week-long run at Bass Concert Hall April 9-14.
David Elkins, who plays Johnny Cash, didn’t come by the part in the usual way. He has a Master of Arts in intercultural studies, spent time as a bond trader on Wall Street, and worked in a group home for troubled teenagers. Before taking on the role of the Man in Black on the national tour of Million Dollar Quartet, Elkins says the only people he had sung for were family and friends, and the only acting he’d done was in short films (for free).
“It was [Million Dollar Quartet] actually that inspired me to branch out a little bit. I saw the show in New York while it was still on Broadway, and I immediately set a Google alert for Johnny Cash Million Dollar Quartet auditions,” he explains. “I was back in New York two weeks later auditioning. They assumed I was a musical theater guy and kept bringing me back, and eventually I got it.”
“It’s really a platform for the audience to take a fly on the wall perspective of what these guys would have been like all in the same room." - David Elkins
Elkins says he’s honored his first paid acting gig involves paying homage to these four legends. He says the show does a brilliant job of showing how their dynamic personalities intermingled during the one and only time all four were together at Sun Records.
“It’s really a platform for the audience to take a fly on the wall perspective of what these guys would have been like all in the same room. And we feature all of their best songs. You end up knowing every song and it’s exciting to hear it live.”
Elkins says he’s a long time Johnny Cash fan and has a great respect for him as a person and performer. “I loved his voice. I loved his sensibility. His story telling... He was really grounded in his faith and his family but he always had that unpredictability and that danger right under the surface,” Elkins explains. “He was certainly no saint, but he had a dichotomy of vulnerability that people continue to be drawn to.”
Elkins studied hours of footage of Johnny Cash to learn some of his mannerisms and what made him such a star. However, he is quick to point out this is not an impersonation show. He says he and the other three actors playing the leads’ goal is to try to capture the core of who these men were, while performing some of the greatest rock n roll music ever recorded.
“People can expect to see a surprisingly engaging history of rock 'n roll with great humor and conflict between four icons in a rock concert atmosphere. We have yet to have a show where people are not all standing up and clapping along at the end.”
You can rock out to Johnny, Elvis, Jerry Lee and Carl at Bass Concert Hall from April 9-14.