Peoria Players is proud to present the regional premiere of Million Dollar Quartet, opening on October 4 and running for eight performances through October 13. This Tony Award-winning musical is the true story set on December 4, 1956 when an extraordinary chance of fate brought together Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. It brings to life a story of broken promises, secrets shared, betrayal and celebrations that are poignant, funny and true. Audiences will relive the era with the smash hit songs of rock and roll, gospel, R&B and country, all performed live on stage. Such songs include “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Walk the Line,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Who Do You Love,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Hound Dog” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”
Jared Coker plays Johnny Cash. Although this is Coker’s first appearance on the Peoria Players stage, he has starred in several previous productions — most recently, Metamora Thespian Society’s production of Ring of Fire. Coker’s vocals will stun audiences with its likeness to Mr. Cash. He states, “This being my first Peoria Players production, I am truly glad to have waited for it to be ‘Million Dollar Quartet.’ This has been a truly fulfilling experience to fill the shoes of one of the titans of the music industry. Johnny Cash and his music have been a major part of my life for the last few years, having performed his music in the production of ‘Ring of Fire’ with fellow cast mate Tyler Smith and Music Director Mary Rose Williams. So when the opportunity arose to step back into the Man in Black’s boots, it was an easy yes. To dive further into the man himself was a treat to say the least and when it’s all said and done it has been a pleasure to walk the line.” Although Cash was known for his deep, calm bass-baritone voice, in Cash: the Autobiography, he wrote that, during this Sun Records recording, he sometimes sang in a higher pitch to blend in with Elvis.
Tyler Skibinski plays Jerry Lee Lewis. Crowds will certainly be entertained by Skibinski’s portrayal of Lewis. He starred as Danny last year in Peoria Players’ 100th season opener, Grease. His upbeat personality and high-octane energy are perfect for this role. “It’s been a one of a kind experience having the opportunity to portray a real life icon and relive one of the greatest jam sessions ever!” exclaims Skibinski. Nicknamed “The Killer,” Lewis is known as rock and roll’s first great wild man with his trademark over-the-top antics on the piano and kicking over the piano bench (which originally was an accident). His original Sun Records cut of “Great Balls of Fire” was elected to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998, while his Sun recording of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” received this honor in 1999.
Tommy Rosecrans plays Carl Perkins. Rosecrans’ talents have brought him to the local theatre stages many times. Most recently at Peoria Players, he was Riff in West Side Story. Rosecrans has enjoyed researching his character for this production. Rosecrans explains, “Before I decide to pursue a role in a play or musical, the character must be dynamic and the work involved must be challenging. Bringing Carl Perkins to life onstage required vast sacrifices and meticulous planning. I hope I have done the King of Rockabilly justice.” This King of Rockabilly has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Paul McCartney has said that “if there were no Carl Perkins, there would be no Beatles.”
And completing the quartet, Tyler Smith plays the cultural icon, Elvis Presley. Audiences will remember Smith from past Peoria Players productions including the title role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, and most recently, Tony in West Side Story. Smith says, “The entire process of the show has been a team effort. From learning the instruments, studying the movements and dialogue from watching videos and documentaries, this show has opened up great discussions on some of the finest musicians that ever were. Everyone is working hard and together for one reason: to pay tribute to these incredible music legends.” Cash, Perkins, Lewis, and of course, The King — what else do you need? This show is one hit song after another with performers that are huge fans of their music. You may have seen them in concert or only watched them in videos, but everyone knows their name. Smith continues, “If you’re planning on staying in your seats the entire show, we will be extremely disappointed. This show will take you back to entertainers that knew how to play music that would energize the entire crowd. Clap your hands, stomp your feet, hoot and holler, stomp your feet, and get up and dance to a show that brings you four legends back together onstage one more time.”
Other talents featured in this cast include Zachary Robertson as record producer and Sun Records founder, Sam Phillips, Kate Carroll as Dyanne, John Spinder as Jay Perkins and Joe Tuerk as W. S. “Fluke” Holland. Robertson, Carroll, Spinder and Tuerk each hold countless theatrical experiences to their credit, as well.
This fast-paced show is a step back in time to the great era of the 1950’s. Poodle skirts, scarves and leather jackets are welcome! The show is directed by Mary Ellen Ulrich, with music direction by Mary Rose Williams. Performances include October 4, 5, 9, 10, 11 and 12 at 7:30 pm and October 6 and 13 at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for those 20 and younger. For reservations, call 688-4473 or visit peoriaplayers.org.