By: Colin Escot and Floyd Mutrux
Produced by: Broadway by the Bay
Directed by: Alicia Jeffrey
Music coordinator: Alica Jeffrey
Featuring: Tarif Pappu as Carl Perkins, Nick Kenrick as Jerry Lee Lewis, Michael Perrie Jr. as Johnny Cash, Sam C. Jones as Elvis Presley, Sammi Hildebrandt as Dyanne, Rich Matli as Sam Phillips,Lane Sanders as Fluke, and Daniel Murguia as Brother Jay
Scenic design: Kelly James Tighe
Lighting design: Aaron Spivey
Sound design: Jon Hayward
Costume design: Karina Chavarin
Stage manager: Lauren Howry
When: June 8 through June 24, 2018
Where: Fox Theater, 2215 Broadway Street, Redwood City
Tickets: $44-$66, subject to change, discounts available. Call 650-579-5565 or visit www.broadwaybythebay.org.
Whole lot of shakin' goin' on
in 'Million Dollar Quartet' for Broadway by the Bay
Playing — and even looking like — Jerry Lee Lewis is not too tough for Nick Kenrick.
"The trick is you put all the songs in C and just whack the keys really hard," Kenrick said in a recent interview. "I watched his videos, listened to all his records. You just get used to the style and keep going, getting better and better."
It was the wild stuff — kicking over the piano stool, jumping on the piano, playing upside-down — that was more of a challenge.
"Some of the acrobatics took a little work," said Kenrick, who plays Jerry Lee Lewis in "Million Dollar Quartet" at Broadway by the Bay, opening on Friday, June 8, 2018. "Definitely have to use some tricks to make it easier."
Kenrick has starred in this role before, in September 2017 at Palo Alto Players, where "Kenrick is fabulous as Jerry Lee, not only playing some monster licks on the piano with brilliant musicianship, but also acting like the great entertainer, in his movements, his voice, and his crazy, leg-waving histrionics at the keyboard." Read a review.
Kenrick is a terrific entertainer, who fully commits to every role on stage. Witness his Donkey, for instance, in "Shrek: The Musical" at Foothill Music Theatre in July 2017.
"Million Dollar Quartet" is an interpretation of an event that actually happened, on December 4, 1956, when Lewis, Elvis Presley (and a girlfriend), Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash all showed up at Sun Record Studio in Memphis.
It was supposed to be a Perkins recording session, but turned into a kind of jam, one that featured a lot of hymns, because most of these good Southern boys had grown up singing hymns in church. It was recorded, and the album is available on Amazon and elsewhere.
Some years ago, Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott got the idea of turning the story of that session into a musical, which opened in 2006, and bounced around a bit — including a very long run in Chicago, and a shorter run on Broadway, starting in 2010.
It can be a fun show, with Elvis swiveling his hips and imitating other singers, Cash crooning, and Perkins cycling between rock 'n' roll creativity and violent crankiness because he doesn't want a piano on his recordings.
But the most fun — for some of us, anyway — is Jerry Lee Lewis, who was only 21 at the time and brimming over with the rock histrionics that would help set the pace for rock. Kenrick was stunningly good in the Players production, not just singing and playing the piano, but getting his hair curled so he looked more like Jerry Lee than any of the other three principals looked like the people they played.
And he got Lewis's twang just about right in dialogue. Such fun! It will be a treat to see him reprise the role at Broadway by the Bay.
Also on hand from the Players production is Tarif Pappu, an excellent guitarist, as Perkins. Other cast members not from the Players show include Michael Perrie Jr. as Cash, Sam C. Jones as Presley, Rich Matli as Sam Phillips, Sammi Hildebrandt as Dyanne, Lane Sanders as Fluke, and Daniel Murguia as Brother Jay.)
Kenrick, off stage, is a mechanical engineer who works as Intuitive Surgical in Sunnyvale, where the Da Vinci Surgical Robot is made. He works in manufacturing, Kenrick said. "I make the robots that make the robots."
He grew up in San Jose, where he went to Archbishop Mitty High School. Both his parents are engineers. "The apple doesn't fall too far," said Kenrick.
"I like math and science stuff," said Kenrick when asked "why engineering." "I've always been, always been great at it. In high school, in AP math and physics, I was always at the top of my class. Engineering feels like a natural fit."
He rode a partial scholarship to NYU.
But, he's always loved music and theater, too.
"My family's always been supportive, 100 percent for me with musical theater.
"I've always been in engaged with it in school, it was great, but not the thing I wanted to commit my life to. I found it fun, I still really enjoy doing it."
Kenrick started piano lessons at "about 6 years old. I never really stopped. I took classical lessons till high school, then got in the jazz band and took jazz lessons, too."
Between Mitty High's music program and Children's Musical Theatre, Kenrick played in the pit for a lot of shows. He also plays for voice lessons and auditions. Being able to sight-read makes a lot possible.
Piano is "definitely my main instrument. I used to play trumpet, and had a brief stint with tuba in high school that we won't talke about," Kenrick said. "I've played a little guitar — but anyone can do that — and I also play banjo. Took bluegrass lessons."
"Million Dollar Quartet" only has a short run at the Fox Theatre, which is probably because the Fox is huge, and can seat a lot of people for each performance. Closing date is June 24, 2018. Next up for Kenrick will be music-directing "Tarzan" at Palo Alto Players, in September.
Email John Orr at email@example.com