BWW Interviews: Walking The Line with MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET's Johnny Cash, Scott Moreau
Hi Scott! First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with BroadwayWorld in Omaha!
Let's start at the beginning. When did you know that you wanted to become a performer?
Well, I'd say that I realized that I wanted to be a performer later in life. I mean, I always used to sing when I was little. My parents would put on records and I'd sing along and dance around. I actually wanted to be a pro baseball player when I was younger. But my parents took me to see shows growing up, and I started to think that it might not be a bad idea for me. We went on a trip abroad, and ended up seeing Les Miserables in London, and I remember saying to myself, "Yup. That's it. That's what I want to do." I started looking at schools to learn more about musical theatre, and have been working professionally ever since I graduated.
Looking at your resume, I see that one of your earlier professional credits came from your five years with the Nebraska Theatre Caravan's touring production of A Christmas Carol. Can you tell me a little bit about how you got involved with that and if/how that experience helped prepare you for where you are today?
First of all, I would like to say that I am looking forward to being in Omaha for many reasons. I haven't been there for almost seven years, and I love that city. I love the Omaha Community Playhouse, and still have some very dear friends there from my Caravan days that I am excited to see. I really can't wait to be down there.
As for the Caravan tour... That was actually one of my first professional gigs out of college. I, like many recent college grads and young professionals interested in pursuing a career in theatre, attended a combined audition event called the South Eastern Theatre Conference. It's a large audition where you have the ability to be seen by over 300 casting directors and companies for various theatres and jobs. I booked a gig at a summer stock that year, and while I was at that summer stock the Caravan called me and offered me a spot on the tour that winter, which was great. It was awesome to get to be a part of so many peoples Christmas traditions. In lieu of having my own Christmas at home, it was really nice to get to share that with the people we performed for and the people I toured with across the country. And while it was an amazing experience, that rigorous schedule helped prepare me for the tour life I have now. Some people are built for the road, and some are not, but the Caravan tour showed me that I would be just fine on the road. And also, it showed me what it was like to work for a company that never really cut corners, and where the emphasis was on the story and the production, and who really made me feel welcome.
Fast-forward to where you are today. How did you get involved with Million Dollar Quartet?
Honestly, I've kind of been following the show around in a roundabout way for a while. I have always been a huge Johnny Cash fan. I used to work at the Seaside Theatre in Dayton Beach, FL, and before I started there they were advertising for a new musical they were work shopping called Million Dollar Quartet. I thought it sounded amazing! It ended up going to Chicago and did really well there. A lot of regional theatres were interested in it and were waiting on word of it going to Broadway or becoming available for regional productions. Of course it went to Broadway, and I kind of followed it on social media and on the Tony Awards, etc. I knew I had to be a part of this show. I waited and waited until I finally saw a posting for the National Tour audition, and so I hopped on a train from Pennsylvania, where I was in a show at the time, and I went in for an audition. After six callbacks I got a call that summer and they asked me to be a part of the show.
What was your rehearsal process like for this musical?
You know, a lot of times when people book a show where they are playing a real person, they book the role and then really do a lot of the research on that individual after. I was the complete opposite of that. I listen to Cash on a daily basis. I have everything that he's ever recorded, all of the concert footage that is available, and have read every book that was written by him or about him. I have always just loved his music, his message, and his story. So my personal rehearsal process has been very different from what would normally happen.
As far as the group rehearsal process goes -- Not only is this show kind of an a-typical show on stage, but the rehearsal process is such because there is no orchestra. We are the band and the actors. We sing the songs, deliver the lines, and play the instruments. With that being said, we really had to function as a band first. We didn't have the normal music rehearsals with the music stands and notes. We had to come in with a general working knowledge of the songs, and we would play as a band. We all knew what key the songs were in, and what lines we were supposed to sing, and we would just play like a band. We made the band first, and then had to make it a show. It was very different from the typical musical theatre rehearsal experience.
With being such a huge fan of Johnny Cash, and considering the legend that he is, how do you find the balance between portraying him as the man he was on stage and not losing yourself in that characterization? And are there any difficulties you find in playing this well known person?
Honestly. I'm not the kind of performer who needs to leave their mark on a show. Sometimes performers feel they need to put their stamp on a show and make it their own just to be different. That has never been my philosophy. My job in this show is to play Johnny Cash. My job is to show him reverence, pay tribute to him, and hope that anyone out there who is a lifelong Johnny Cash fan will recognize that I take my job and his legacy very seriously. For me, it's never really an issue of getting lost in the role. My focus is really on doing my best to be as close to as what I can surmise he was like. Along with that, I think one of the most challenging parts with portraying Johnny Cash is that people have the benefit of 50-60 years of history with this man. We can now look back at his career and personal life, and through those people come in to the show with certain ideas of what he should be like. I have done an awful lot of research for this role, and you have to remember that Johnny is only 24 years old in this show. He's basically a kid at the beginning of his career, and not the image of the man we are used to seeing when we think Johnny Cash. He's the Cash that a lot of people don't really know.
What about this show do you think will really appeal to the Omaha audiences?
Well, you know, Omaha is a great music city. What was something I didn't know about Omaha until I had the opportunity to spend time there during Caravan rehearsals, but I now love about Omaha. Honestly, Omaha has some of the best record stores I've been to. The music in this show is fantastic.
I also think people will appreciate the fact that we are an a-typical musical, as I said before. This is not a "jazz hands" kind of musical. We are musicians and actors. You can never have seen a musical before, some see Million Dollar Quartet, and love that it's a different kind of show. At times it almost seems like you're at a rock concert more so than at a musical. It's a great chance for audiences to learn new things about these artists, and even to share and bring back memories for those who were around during the peak of this era of music. We hear comments all the time like, "I was smiling all night," or "you took me back to a simpler/better time," or "I remember when I first heard that record when I was seven years old." It's a show that really transports people. There is something for everybody in this show.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel