Monthly Archives: March 2012

Exclusive Q&A with Million Dollar Quartet’s Martin Kaye

Elvis Presley. Jerry Lee Lewis. Johnny Cash. Carl Perkins. And the once-in-a-lifetime jam session that brought them all together. Million Dollar Quartet made its Minnesota debut on Tuesday night at the State Theatre telling the electrifying true story of four rock ‘n’ roll icons and the recording session at Sun Records in Memphis that brought them all together for the first and only time. Million Dollar Quartet piano man Martin Kaye – playing the wild Jerry Lee Lewis – sat down with us for an exclusive interview about playing this legendary rocker.

Martin Kaye as Jerry Lee Lewis in The National Tour of Million Dollar Quartet (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Q. Tell us about Million Dollar Quartet and your character in the show.

The story of the show is the December 4, 1956 Carl Perkins recording session and Sam Phillips – who owned the studio and found these four guys- hired this unknown piano player (Jerry Lee Lewis) to come and play in the session.  Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley were in town, so they stopped by and it turned into this impromptu jam session. We are re-enacting that night. It’s just a big, fat, rock ‘n’ roll fest. And it’s amazing- lots of fun.

Me personally, I play Jerry Lee Lewis and it’s a blast especially since he’s the only one who’s still alive. He’s known for being completely wild and ridiculous on stage. I am, in my own performing of other things, kind of like that.

Q. So you’re British, what’s it like playing an American music icon? Did you grow up listening to Jerry Lee?

No, I didn’t. I grew up listening to Elton John, Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson so I wasn’t really surrounded by this kind of music. I did obviously hear it because my dad played the piano and so I did hear boogie-woogie type music like that.  I knew what it was, but I didn’t really know much about it. I didn’t really know much about Johnny Cash either.  I see now that he is one of the most popular musicians of all time in this country.  It’s been an amazing education for me and an experience to learn the music and the culture behind the music which is so wild.

Q. What drew you to the role of Jerry Lee?

I’ve always played the piano. I’ve always sang. It’s a given. This part was made for me as the person that I am on stage and the performer and musician that I am. It’s kind of ridiculous that it came up and was available for me to audition for… and to get the part was crazy. I couldn’t believe it because being British and there were all these other American players from the south- I can’t believe they actually decided to go with me. I’m very blessed.

Q. What did you do to prepare for the role, besides dialect coaching?

Actually I wasn’t too far off to start with, but I had a little bit of dialect training with Colin (the writer).  To be honest, being around him (pointing to Cody Slaughter, who plays Elvis) and people who are from the south really helped. Um…and also Youtube! A lot of Youtube videos of Jerry Lee. Listening to him as well as some interviews of him on Youtube. Youtube is a godsend.  I couldn’t have done this without it. And reading his biography.

Martin Kay (left) with fellow Million Dollar Quartet cast member Scott Moreau at the State Theatre.

Q. What are the challenges of -not only playing Jerry Lee- but of portraying a real person instead of just a character?

That’s the tricky thing because people have this expectation. They know who he is on stage performing, but they don’t necessarily know who he is or who any of these guys are in this intimate setting, this social setting. So that’s kind of cool because we have some liberty to joke around, goof around and we do get into each other’s faces a bit- which did not necessarily happen, but could have happened.  People get to see that ‘fly on the wall’ situation.

Yes there is some pressure, but you’re also not trying to imitate. You’re trying to capture the essence of these people and that’s something that I think we’ve really succeeded at. A lot of people come away from the show saying that we aren’t imitators and that’s really cool. It’s important because you can try to be an imitator and really, really fail, but we’re not trying in the first place.

Q. Is there a moment or a song where you rock the hardest in the show?

TOTALLY the end. The last song- “Shakin’.” I guess it’s the point where I start soloing and the whole second half of that song is just awesome. My brain switches off and my hands take over.

Q.  If you could portray any music icon – British, American, anyone – who would you portray?

Elton John. The thing is, though, I don’t sound or look like him (as you cannot tell from this blog). I’ve grown up with his music so it would be an honor to play him. Actually, ideally, instead of playing him I’d rather play with him on stage. That would be awesome. That’s a target of mine before I die or before he dies.

Wanna lace up your blue suede shoes, Minneapolis?

This jukebox musical will have a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on through Sunday, April 1st, but tickets are still available for every performance. Visit our site.

Student Rush Policy for Million Dollar Quartet: Rush tickets are $20 cash only, limit 2 tickets per valid student/educator school ID and will go on-sale two hours prior to each performance. Subject to availability. The re-sale of rush tickets is strictly prohibited.

WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING:

Review: ‘Quartet’ cast makes show worth a million bucks – Star Tribune

Review: ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ has substance, story and raucous rock ‘n’ roll – Pioneer Press

Watch: WCCO Interview with Martin Kaye

View: Photos from the Opening Night Party and the Sneak Peek Performance at Mall of America.

Get on The Scene

For the past year, I have held the title of “Hennepin Theatre Trust Education and Community Engagement Associate,” (yes, it is the longest title I’ve ever been given), but prior to starting with the Trust, I was fully immersed in The Scene. What is The Scene, you may ask? Well, if you are in your 20s and 30s, you like the theatre, you like networking, you like engaging with your community in a meaningful way and you care about the future of the arts on Hennepin Avenue, then the answer is: You.

The Scene members with the cast of American Idiot

The Facts: The Scene is Hennepin Theatre Trust’s young professionals group for arts enthusiasts in their 20s & 30s. You sign up, pay a $20 annual membership fee and get access to a slew of benefits. But at the heart of it, The Scene is really about connecting you to your arts community. So I invite you to check out seven lucky reasons YOU should get on The Scene:

  1. Exclusive Ticket Offers: The Scene members are privy to exclusive ticket offers to Broadway shows, concerts and other events. For example, this month, Scene members have been offered reduced tickets to Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It and Million Dollar Quartet.
  2. Special Events: We the people, of our 20s and 30s, dig parties, right? We’ve got the party thing covered. The Scene members are often invited to opening night parties to grab a drink, nibble on some food and snap photos with the cast- like the one above with American Idiot. We also have smaller meet-and-greets or Q&A’s with cast members if that’s more your style- like this one with Million Dollar Quartet.
  3. Broadway Confidential: Members of The Scene receive complimentary access to all Broadway Confidential events. These happen Monday nights before each Broadway show and feature a speaker who is an expert on a topic relating to the show. Join us on Monday March 26th as the legendary drummer of the Million Dollar Quartet session, W.S. Holland, reflects on his life in the industry and working alongside Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. Check it out- here.
  4. Drink Discounts: Back to that whole “deals” thing. You show ‘em your Scene card—you get $1 off drinks at the State, Orpheum, Pantatges and New Century Theatres.  Done and done.
  5. Networking: Members of The Scene include executives to teachers to entrepreneurs to artists. So come party…I mean network…with us. Connect to us and we’ll connect you to each other.
  6. It’s your Plan-It Hennepin: The future of Hennepin Avenue is in your hands. As Hennepin Theatre Trust works with Walker Art Center, Artspace and the City of Minneapolis to improve Hennepin Avenue, we want The Scene members to be a part of these discussions. Check out our page to learn more. Or just join The Scene and we’ll let you know all the ways you can be involved.
  7. Give in to your philanthropic self: Angelina and Brad made philanthropy cool—but we know better—they make it cool because they look great doing it together. By becoming a part of The Scene you are not only getting access to tickets, events and networking with like-minded people, you’re also getting connected with Minnesota’s seventh largest non-profit organization. And we hope the more time you spend with us, the more time you’ll want to spend with us. Our educational and community engagement programs such as Access, Critical View and our nationally recognized SpotLight Musical Theatre Program are doing some serious good. And I have a feeling you might look great doing some serious good with us.

To join The Scene, see a full list of benefits, check out photos from past events or learn about upcoming opportunities please visit us online or by contacting me- Whitney Rhodes- at thescene@hennepintheatretrust.org