The Kentucky Center for The Arts is about to get its socks rocked off. Buildings have socks - look it up. This Tuesday, February 12th, Million Dollar Quartet rock and rolls into Louisville for a weeklong run at Whitney Hall. The Tony-nominated musical, which played on Broadway and on the West End in London, tells the story of four of the most iconic musicians in the history of rock and roll: Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley. That’s actually true. The building having socks thing…no.
Million Dollar Quartet should not be confused with a jukebox musical, a term that can be a dirty little phrase in musical theatre circles. Jukebox musicals take an artist or group’s greatest hits and plugs them into a story, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Million Dollar Quartet is not a story generated to showcase songs. The songs here are the story. It recounts the now famous recording that took place in Memphis on December 4th, 1956 in which four pioneers decided to have a jam session. Sure, there are a few tweaks and additions to add drama and a narrative, but these songs don’t lie.
Ben Goddard, who plays Jerry Lee Lewis, could possibly be having the most fun. Mr. Goddard played the part for a year on the West End before heading over to the states. The actor, who is English and making his U.S. stage debut in the Million Dollar Quartet tour, says that he may have had a little trepidation about taking on such a legendary, and very American, character. “[I did have] a little of course. I think that’s only natural,” adding, “but I love playing Jerry so much that any doubts were far outweighed by the enormous excitement of the honor to play him over here.” During his research Goddard says he realized Lewis was more rock and roll than he ever thought, calling him the “true killer.”
Goddard grew up listening to Lewis records and has been playing the piano himself since he was five, so there wasn’t a huge learning curve. He clarifies, “not a learning curve as such, but certainly a refining of the style required to capture that sound.” Capturing the sound is one thing. Capturing that energy and electricity that Jerry Lee Lewis possessed is an entirely different story. Goddard rises to the challenge but adds that he is “totally shattered” at the end of each show and it’s totally worth it.
“If I wasn’t I’d think I wouldn’t be doing the man justice.”
Million Dollar Quartet plays at the Kentucky Center for The Arts February 12th through the 17th. Times vary. For more information or tickets please call 502-584-7777 or visit www.kentuckycenter.org.
Photo courtesy of Helen Maybanks