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L.A. Beat

New West Theatre ready to rock and roll with Million Dollar Quartet

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Magic sometimes happens at spontaneous jam sessions.Hunter Semrau playing Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet. Photo by Richard Amery
 So New West Theatre explores one of these in their new production Million Dollar Quartet — a musical about a spontaneous jam session in 1956 at Sun Studios with Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.

The Tony award winning Broadway musical by Colin Escott and Floyd  Mutrux runs Sept, 12-29 at the newly renovated Yates Theatre.
“It’s a musical based on a jam session in 1956 Sun Studios with Carl Perkins, Elvis, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis who united and got together in a room together,” said Kathy Zaborsky who is co-musical director with Scott Mezei for this production.

“It’s a play and a story and a story loosely based on the events leading up to  the the group getting together with Sam Phillips in Sun Studios,” she continued.
“ It’s a musical like Avenue Q, but it‘s all based on ’50s music so that includes country, rockabilly, rock and roll and the blues,” she said, adding it is different than New West Theatre’s usual music/comedy revues, though there is a lot of both in Million Dollar Quartet.

“We haven’t done a musical for about 10 years, since we did Gift of the Magi,” Zaborsky said, adding the music includes more than just the music of the four primary characters.

“ It was definitely a challenge, because we had to find a cast who are not only great musicians, but great actors and singers as well,” said Zaborsky who is pleased with the cast which features a couple of familiar faces including Devon Brayne, who plays a young Johnny Cash and Claire Lint, who plays Elvis’s girlfriend Dyanne.

It also includes New West newcomers Kevin Clarke as Carl Perkins and Matt Cage who plays Elvis and has played Elvis in previous productions of The Million Dollar quartet. They have a  crack band of bassist Paul Holden, drummer Theo Lysyk and Scott Mezei playing guitar.

And Hunter Semrau, who plays a young Jerry Lee Lewis, but who  is also part of the University of Lethbridge opera program so
learning the music was a departure for Semrau.

Million Dollar Quartet features a whole lot of rock and roll. Photo by Richard Amery
“I’ve been playing piano since I was six and took six years of classical piano,” Semrau said.

“And this is an entirely different style of singing trying to  get those screams and growls. It’s really high energy,” he said.
“I’m playing the piano with my feet and backwards and jumping around and even jump off the piano. It’s exhausting,” he said.

“He hasn’t made it as big as the other guys yet so he’s still trying to standout and make his a way in a world full of Elvises,  and Johnny Cashes,” he said.
Claire Lint, who  is a dance instructor as well, is excited  be on stage with New West for the first time in five years.

“I haven’t been on stage with New West for a while, but I’ve choreographed  about five of their shows,” she said, adding she is excited to play Dyanne.

“ She really helps set the session up, ” she said, adding she is excited to perform in front of an audience.
“ I’m excited to get in front of an audience. We have a lot of energy. We’re exited to get energy back from the audience.
Million Dollar quartet runs at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 12-15, 19-22 and 26-29. There are also matinees at 1 p.m. on Sept. 15, 22 and 29.
Tickets are $33 for adults, $28 for the matinees, $28 for Students and seniors/$24 for matinees and $18 for children  12 and under, $15 for matinees.

— By Richard Amery, L.A.  Beat Editor
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