On December 4, 1956, a legendary event occurred. Four of music’s most celebrated and talented musicians joined together for an evening at the famed Sun Studio for a jam session that will live in infamy. The musical Million Dollar Quartet tells the story of this event, which featured Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. In this feature Q & A, actor and musician Ben Goddard discusses the musical, Jerry Lee Lewis and more.
How long have you been a fan of Jerry Lee Lewis’ Music?
I have playing and listening to Jerry Lee Lewis’ music since I was five-years-old.
What do you enjoy most about playing him in the musical?
He is a very fun character to play – very funny and he gets a lot of great lines. What is interesting is that at this time in the play he is not a star yet. He was only there on the night of December 4, 1956 to be a session piano player for Carl Perkins. He is very keen to make his mark on a very established group of stars, which makes his presence there very entertaining.
Do you have a favorite song of his that you perform in the show?
That’s very difficult. My favorite song we get to perform is probably “Real Wild Child,” but I also get to sing “Great Balls of Fire” and “A Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On.” They’re really fantastic songs. I also get to play with the other guys are doing like “Matchbox” by Carl Perkins?
Are the cast members accomplished musicians or did you learn an instrument for the show?
I’ve been playing piano since I was five-years-old. The others are also very fine musicians. ??, who plays Carl Perkins is a phenomenal guitarist. I mean he has to be to even get close to what Carl Perkins could do on the guitar. The other guys both play great guitar.
Is there a traditional plot to the musical, or is it more of an experience?
I think it’s certainly a fly on the wall experience of what it might have been like that night. So, this does tell the story of each of these four guys and how they came to be. Of course, because of the phenomenal back catalog these guys have, it makes for a great concert as well. I think the story is one of the strongest elements in it, and it is very entertaining to watch.
What do you enjoy most about working with your fellow cast members?
I like the fact that it’s like being in a band. There’s nothing better than being in a band. I mean I’ve been working on big musicals for most of my career. I came up through the West End, but as a teenager, I started out singing in bands. There’s a real comrade onstage.
What can audiences expect when they come to see the show?
They can expect a high octane, rock-and-roll experience and to hear this music, not from a scratchy old record, but big and in your face like how it would have been back then.
What number gets the best audience reaction?
We do an encore set of Elvis singing “Hound Dog,” Johnny Cash singing “Ghost Riders,” Carl Perkins singing “See You Later Alligator,” and then I come out and sing “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On.” The reaction at the end of those four songs cumulatively is quite amazing. The crowd tends to go wild at that point.
Is the reaction similar to the reaction that Jersey Boys gets as people relive the music from their youth?
It is similar to the reaction to Jersey Boys. You’ve got a very interesting story and the music is prevalent throughout the story. I think this is certainly grittier in terms of music. It doesn’t have that Broadway polish to it. Of course, we are playing live onstage. Everything you see on stage is live and played by us, and that give a real energy.
Are you excited to bring the show to Atlanta?
This is my first national tour of the States, and I love it. I’m really excited to see this country, and I am really looking forward to coming to Atlanta. I can’t wait.
Part of the Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Atlanta series, Million Dollar Quartet plays at the Fox Theatre March 12, 2013 through March 17, 2013. Tickets are available at the Fox Theatre box office, by phone at 1-855-285-8499, or online at www.foxatltix.com.