Deason Helms Upcoming MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at Woodbury's ACCC
He may have directed more than 100 shows in the near-half century that Darryl Deason has been bringing theater to life on stages all over Middle Tennessee. But it's clear when the 2015 First Night Honoree talks about his latest project - the Tony Award-winning Million Dollar Quartet - that this one is something special indeed.
In fact, Deason has been singing the praises of his cast, a collection of skilled actors brought together by happenstance, luck and serendipity, for months, beginning the production process early to accommodate their differing schedules and peripatetic lives as journeymen actors. And with opening night now less than two weeks away, theater impresario Deason is eager to show audiences who come to Woodbury for the show what all the fuss is about.
Tennessee audiences have already been treated to multiple productions across the state including stellar and critically acclaimed productions at Crossville's Cumberland County Playhouse, Memphis' Playhouse on the Square and Clarksville's Roxy Regional Theatre - professional theatres in East, West and Middle Tennessee that have justifiably impressive reputations.
Deason, who has been directing for 49 years (for Bedford Youth Players, Bedford Players, Nashville's Circle Players, Murfreesboro Little Theatre, Cannon Community Playhouse, and The Arts Center of Cannon County), believes that the upcoming Arts Center of Cannon County rendition of the show - which features a book by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott - will compare favorably with any production, whether by a professional or community theater, that you might see anywhere.
Described as a "jukebox musical," but offering so much more than that name might suggest, Million Dollar Quartet dramatizes the legendary million dollar quartet recording session at Memphis' Sun Studios on December 4, 1956, when producer Sam Phillips brought together Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley - music legends at various stages in the arc of each man's career - to play together for what was the first and only time.
That historic musical gathering provided the genesis of the musical that opened on Broadway in 2010 (and on London's West End in 2011) and won a Tony Award for Tennessean Levi Kreis' performance as flamboyant piano man Jerry Lee Lewis. Kreis, a native of Oliver Springs, attended Nashville's Belmont University and has enjoyed a successful career as a recording artist and performer since leaving the cast of Million Dollar Quartet after his Tony win.
Million Dollar Quartet plays the Arts Center of Cannon County September 15-30, with 7:30 p.m. performances on Friday and Saturday nights and 2 p.m. matinees on Sunday. Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for students and seniors, and are available at www.artscenterofcc.com.
Deason's talented cast - which includes Stephen Hardy as Johnny Cash, Justin Foster as Elvis Presley, Jacob Miller as Carl Perkins and Daxton Patrick as Jerry Lee Lewis - will be performing on WSMV Channel 4's Today in Nashville on Thursday, September 14, at 11 a.m. to offer viewers a tempting slice of life from the show.
About the cast
Stephen Hardy plays Johnny Cash. Hardy hails from Brighton, Tennessee, and has spent the past 10 years in upstate South Carolina. He is a graduate of Erskine College, with a degree ini American Studies. He began playing the guitar at 14, performing as a soloist at 18, as well as with his rockabilly band The Nite Owls. He recently began performing as part of a music duo with Dave Perry, recently cutting an album in Virginia. Hardy understudied the roles of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins at La Comedia Dinner Theater in Springboro, Ohio, last fall and has played the role of Carl Perkins at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts in Fredericksburg, Virginia in January, 2017. He's played Johnny Cash twice before, at Memphis' Playhouse on the Square during spring of this year, followed by a performance as Cash at Wohlfahrt Dinner Theater this summer. He will once again play Johnny Cash in February, 2018 for the Legacy Theatre in Tyrone, Georgia.
Dave Perry is Brother Jay, and has been a lifelong 1950s rock n roll, rockabilly and country fan, starting his record collection when he was 12. He was 16 when he started playing upright bass and at 20 went to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City to study musical theater. "When I first started auditioning one of my weirdest survival jobs was selling waterproof watches for two weeks," he says. He booked his first Million Dollar Quartet production last year at an Equity Theatre and will have done the show four times by the start of 2018. Perry has been a recording artist for several years and now performs as half of a musical duo with Stephen Hardy.
Justin Foster as Elvis Presley: "We pride ourselves at The Arts Center of Cannon County on our excellent casting and we will go to any means possible to get a great cast," says Deason. "Our casting story of Justin Foster as Elvis Presley is arguably the best one yet! In March, I was having dinner at a new Nashville restaurant prior to a concert at The Schemerhorn Symphony Center." He noticed a handsome busboy with a dark pompadour and a vintage microphone tattoo on his forearm. Deason asked his waiter the name of this Elvis lookalike, and called Justin over to ask if he was a musician and, perhaps more importantly, could he sing like Elvis Presley? (As a busboy in Nashville, of course Justin was a musician - duh!) Justin then revealed his tattoo of Elvis on his shoulder and two weeks later, he was cast as Elvis Presley in The Arts Center of Cannon County's production of Million Dollar Quartet.
Justin hails from Cut and Shoot, Texas, and at 21 piled all of his belongings in his pick-up truck and set out to be a country music star. He drove to Austin, Texas, and then to Nashville and played guitar on the sidewalks and slept in his truck. He even went to auditions for the CMT series Sun Records, which was based on Million Dollar Quartet. Justin performed in high school theatre in Cut and Shoot, but MDQ at ACCC is first role in a musical.
Jacob Miller plays Carl Perkins. Cannon County native Jacob Miller portrays the Jackson, Tennessee-bred "King of Rockabilly" Carl Perkins. Jacob has lived in Cannon County all of his life and was graduated from Cannon County High School, now attending Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. An accomplished pianist and guitarist, Jacob began taking piano lessons in the fifth grade and added guitar lessons in the sixth grade. This is Jacob's first time in a role on the ACCC stage, but he began playing in production orchestras, beginning with Beehive, and he continues to play both piano or guitar in various shows.
Daxton Patrick is Jerry Lee Lewis. Cannon County native Daxton Patrick portrays the incredible piano playing Jerry Lee Lewis. Dax attended Woodland Elementary School and graduated from Cannon County High School, and now attends MTSU. He has played piano since the age of 10 and is excited to perform on the ACCC stage, performing this music of Million Dollar Quartet. MDQ marks his return to ACCC since his appearance in the children's chorus of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat 11 years ago!
Savannah Michelle Grimm is cast as Dyanne, Elvis Presley's showgirl paramour in Million Dollar Quartet. She is best known as 107.5 The River's Savannah, of the IHeartRadio's Woody and Jim Show, where she also serves as the station's music director. She can be found on the Nashville airwaves bright and early every weekday morning. ACCC audiences will recognize her as Gabriella in the 2010 production of High School Musical 2. She attended MTSU and lives in Murfreesboro, where she is known as the mom of her young Wolfy.
Chad McGee as Sam Phillips. Chad hails from McMinnville, where he is a teacher in the Warren County School System. He has appeared at the Arts Center of Cannon County in several shows, including Jungle Book and Mornings at Seven. He recently directed Lyle the Crocodile.
Michael Toman plays Fluke and is a professional drummer from East Tennessee who attended MTSU and has appeared at ACCC in productions of Memphis the Musical and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.