The show moves on

October 7, 2008

By David Hayes

Actor reprises role of Jerry Lee Lewis in ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ in Chicago

The last time Issaquah audiences saw Levi Kreis, he was giving a rip-roaring performance as Jerry Lee Lewis in Village Theatre’s premier run of “Million Dollar Quartet.”

He has since scaled back some of the bluster with the production making its debut in Chicago.

Levi Kreis played Jerry Lee Lewis (left) and Rob Lyons was Carl Perkins in Village Theatre’s production of ‘Million Dollar Quartet.’ By Jay Koh/Village Theatre

Levi Kreis played Jerry Lee Lewis (left) and Rob Lyons was Carl Perkins in Village Theatre’s production of ‘Million Dollar Quartet.’ By Jay Koh/Village Theatre

“There will be no vaulting over pianos any more,” Kreis said from Chicago.

Midway through the run in Issaquah, he mistimed his landing and tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

“My knee buckled, and Dane Stokinger, who plays Elvis, helped carry me offstage,” Kreis said. “As painful as it was, I didn’t miss a single show.”

How could he? Kreis, who has been involved in the show’s development since 2001, said he’s playing the role of a lifetime as Jerry Lee Lewis.

“This was a role that I was born to play,” said the musician/actor, who’s originally from Oakridge, Tenn. “I grew up in the South playing him.”

The tale is about the night Dec. 4, 1956, when four rock ’n’ roll legends — Johnny Cash, Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley — performed together for the first and only time.

The production, written by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, was originally part of Village Theatre’s sixth annual Festival of New Musicals and had the kinks worked out through the Village Theatre’s Originals program. Then, it made its debut on the Village Theatre’s main stage in September 2007. After eight years and countless rewrites, Kreis said it was amazing to finally see it get its national launch in Issaquah.

“They loved it here. Are you kidding?” Kreis asked rhetorically. “It surprised all of us, how well it was received. It became the second bestselling show in the history of Village Theatre, right under ‘Cats.’”

When “Million Dollar Quartet” finished its run at Village Theatre’s Everett facility, it moved on to Chicago in the Owen Theatre at Goodman Theatre where it will run through Oct. 26.

During the break, Kreis had knee surgery, spending most of his summer in rehab. Helping with the transition from Issaquah to the windy city are alums Lance Guest as Cash and Rob Lyons as Perkins.

“It helps having guys like Lance and Rob along. After a period of time that’s seen many, many, many revisions in the script, you can trust those guys on stage. I enjoy depending on them very much,” Kreis said.

Although Kreis and company have been performing to rave responses so far for preview audiences since Sept. 26, they’ve yet to have a general-admission performance.

“But if the main audiences react anywhere near the same as the preview crowds, I think we’ve got a winner on our hands,” he said.

A fringe benefit from the successful run in Issaquah was to Kreis’ music career. He said playing music of the 1950s in the style of Lewis banging classic rock ’n’ roll on the piano, has inspired him to return to his own roots for a new solo album, “Where I Belong,” which will be available online and in stores Jan. 15.

“This one will be a lot different than my first three albums,” Kreis said. “The run in Issaquah brought me to my roots, when I grew up with gospel and country. I think I finally have an album that’s more representative of self. It’s real piano heavy and feels like real Americana.”

Sample songs from the album can be heard on Kreis’ homepage at www.myspace.com/levikreis.

Reach Reporter David Hayes at 392-6434, ext. 237, or dhayes@isspress.com.

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One Response to “The show moves on”

  1. Issaquah tragedies, triumphs define a tumultuous year : The Issaquah Press – News, Sports, Classifieds and More in Issaquah, WA on June 28th, 2011 1:10 pm

    […] based-on-a-true-story production recounts a legendary jam session. Kreis originated the piano-pounding portrayal of rocker Jerry Lee Lewis at Village […]

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