OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: 'Million Dollar Quartet' extended through end of year, along with cast changes

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2011-09-10T00:00:00Z 2011-09-12T09:40:04Z OFFBEAT: 'Million Dollar Quartet' extended through end of year, along with cast changesBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

"Million Dollar Quartet," now in its third year, will not only continue performances at Apollo Theater in Chicago through Dec. 31, but there are also going to be some new names playing in this cast of famed faces.

Brandon Bennett as Elvis Presley, Heather Marie Marsden as Dyanne, Brad Ber will play Jay Perkins and the bass player and Dan Leali fills out the band as the drummer, while the group joins Gabe Bowling as Carl Perkins, Lance Lipinsky as Jerry Lee Lewis, Sean Sullivan as Johnny Cash and Tim Decker as Sam Phillips for the hit show.

The Tony-nominated musical is of course inspired by the famed 1956 recording session that brought together legendary rock ‘n' roll icons Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley. Following a wave of weeks and years as a box office smash, it not only celebrates its long run in Chicago, but also a multiple Tony-nominated New York run, a long-running London production and next month, a new national tour beginning October 2011.

Original Chicago cast members Kelly Lamont, Billy Shaffer and Chuck Zayas will be the ones joining the national tour, which begins Oct. 11 in Cleveland.

The Chicago production continues to break box office records at the Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago.

"Million Dollar Quartet is a hit in Chicago, New York and London, and it will soon be embarking on the national tour," Producer Gigi Pritzker said.

"It's about to enter its fourth year in Chicago, and it remains as fresh, energetic and engaging as always-partially due to the more than 20 rock ‘n' roll hits in the show and the tremendous talent on stage. As we move into the fall, Chicago audiences will see a few new cast members and we are thrilled that they will be bringing new energy and enthusiasm to the Apollo. Since the show has become an international phenomenon, the interested pool of talent from across the country has been unprecedented and we are thrilled to have assembled such a strong Chicago company."

Here's the scoop on the cast:

• Brandon Bennett (Elvis Presley) is a native of Ponchatoula, La. and has performed with legendary stars like The Jordanaires, DJ Fontana and The Sweet Inspirations. He has been honored with several international awards, including prestigious honors from Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. He joins the cast of "MDQ" after performing for the past two years with the stage production "The Elvis Story" in Quebec, Canada.

• Gabe Bowling as Carl Perkins, has been with the show since it opened in 2008. Prior to joining "MDQ," Gabe was a professional actor in both Chicago and Los Angeles, focusing mainly on films and commercials. Originally a Wisconsin native, he's toured nationally in multiple bands and is currently the lead guitarist for the rock band Fat J and The Pinners. He is also the brains behind the instrumentation and songwriting in his side project Gabe vs. The Sad Kids.

• Lance Lipinsky as Jerry Lee Lewis, a Texas native, grew up studying his dad's record collection of Elvis, Roy Orbison, and his hero, Jerry Lee Lewis. These influences never left him and now, at age 24, he combines these styles in his own original music similar to early Rock & Roll, classic country and even a touch of 1960s pop. His energetic live shows have led him all over the world, even to making his national television debut at the original Ryman Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.

• Sean Sullivan as Johnny Cash was nominated for a Jeff Award for Best Principle Role for Shattered Globe's "Requiem for a Heavyweight." Originally from Ohio, he's been working in Chicago since 2002, where he has appeared at TimeLine in "Fiorello!" and "The Children's Hour;" Lifeline Theatre in "The Island of Dr Moreau" and BackStage Theatre Co., where he is an ensemble member and designer.

• Tim Decker who plays Sam Phillips, a longtime Chicago actor, has appeared at Chicago Shakespeare, Goodman, Next, Milwaukee Rep, Touchstone, Shattered Globe, Stage Left, Famous Door, American Theatre Company and American Blues, where he received a Principal Actor Jeff Award for his work in "Toys in the Attic," among others.

Heather Marie Marsden, who plays Dyanne, appeared in the world premieres of "Mask," directed by Richard Maltby, Jr., "The Beastly Bombing" and "It Came from Beyond," "A Chorus Line" and the national tour of "Sweet Charity." She played Mrs. Lovett on "The Office" and has more than 55 television and film credits. Her songs and recordings have been featured on "Law & Order: CI," "HBO's "Wild...Whites of W. Virginia," "Melrose Place 2.0," "The Miss Teen USA Pageant" and others.

• Dan Leali as Fluke and the drummer is a native of the Chicago area and has performed with jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker; songwriters Jewel, Liz Phair, Peter Himmelman and Robbie Fulks; Poi Dog Pondering; Fareed Haque; bluesman John Primer; and Liquid Soul. He has performed on television and radio jingles, as well as arcade and video game soundtracks, and maintains a private teaching practice. Dan is also a founding member of the band Tributosaurus.

• Brad Ber who plays Jay Perkins and the bass player is a professional upright bass player specializing in rockabilly, blues and American roots music. He said he's been honored to play alongside a wide array of artists, from original Sun artists to exciting new national acts. He has worn many hats, from recording artist and performer to songwriter and recording engineer.

The premise of "Million Dollar Quartet" centers around Dec. 4, 1956, and an auspicious twist of fate that brought Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley together. The place was Sun Records' storefront studio in Memphis. The man who made it happen was Sam Phillips, the "Father of Rock 'n' Roll," who discovered them all. The four legends-to-be were united for the only time in their careers for an impromptu recording that has come to be known as one of the greatest rock jam sessions of all time.

Million Dollar Quartet features a treasure trove of the greatest rock 'n' roll, gospel, R&B and country hits from these music legends, including "Blue Suede Shoes," "Fever," "Sixteen Tons," "Who Do You Love?," "Great Balls of Fire," "Riders in the Sky," "Whole Lotta' Shakin' Goin' On," "Folsom Prison Blues," "I Walk the Line," and "Hound Dog."

Directed by Eric Schaeffer and Floyd Mutrux, with a book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, "Million Dollar Quartet" is produced by Relevant Theatricals, John Cossette Productions and Northern Lights Inc.

Tickets are $25 to $77.50 at the Apollo Theater box office, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave. or call (773) 935-6100 or ticketmaster.com or milliondollarquartetlive.com.

Rush student tickets for select performances (Wed-Fri and Sun evenings only) are available 2 hours prior to curtain at the box office with valid Student ID. Student rush tickets are subject to availability.

The Apollo performance schedule is as follows: Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 5 and 8 p.m.

"Million Dollar Quartet" will also offer special family discounts on select Sundays. Family nights are currently scheduled for Sept. 18, Oct. 23 and Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets to "Million Dollar Quartet" Family Nights are buy one, get one free. (One child under 17 will be admitted free with each adult ticket purchase.) These evenings also feature giveaways with special gifts from the production.

"Million Dollar Quartet" is described as "a 90-minute, family-friendly production. Audience members of all ages are invited to laugh, clap-and even dance-during the show."

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

 

 

 

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