Village Theatre musical earns Tony nominations
May 11, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
“Million Dollar Quartet” — a musical about the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll and developed at Village Theatre — has been nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
“Million Dollar Quartet” tells the true story of a chance meeting in December 1956 of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. The legendary entertainers jammed together at the Sun Records studio in Memphis.
Eager for the attention the impromptu jam session could attract, Sun Records owner Sam Phillips contacted local journalists to document the occasion. The subsequent newspaper account referred to the assembled performers as a “million dollar quartet.”
The production also received nods for Best Book of a Musical — for the spoken storyline of the production — and Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for Levi Kreis, the actor who portrays Lewis. Kreis originated the role in Issaquah.
The nominations from the American Theatre Wing on May 4 marked another milestone for the musical.
“Million Dollar Quartet” opened on Broadway last month to solid reviews and enthusiastic audiences.
Village Theatre Executive Producer Robb Hunt attended the opening. He said the creative team amped up the glitz for Broadway, but “Million Dollar Quartet” in the Big Apple remains “very much the same show people saw in Issaquah and Everett.”
Besides Kreis, the Broadway production includes performers from the Issaquah run: Lance Guest as Cash, Rob Lyons as Perkins and bassist Corey Kaiser.
The production became the second musical nurtured at the theater to receive nods for the highest honor in theater. The nominations follow the triple Tony wins last year for “Next to Normal.”
Writers Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux developed the show as part of the Village Originals program to foster musicals at the Issaquah theater.
“Million Dollar Quartet” debuted for Issaquah audiences during the Festival of New Musicals presented by Village Theatre in August 2006. Brian Yorkey — the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-decorated scribe behind “Next to Normal” — directed the festival performance.
Yorkey recalled “running from music store to music store to find sheet music” for some of the songs in the production. Before the debut, the Issaquah native had a hunch audiences might respond to “Million Dollar Quartet” because of the figures and songs featured in the piece.
The rockabilly musical debuted at Village Theatre in September 2007. The theater brought in more than $1 million in ticket sales for “Million Dollar Quartet,” and producers extended the run to 10 weeks to meet demand. The production remains the largest-selling original musical in Village Theatre history.
“I always said it was a juggernaut because it’s got great music, but it’s also a fantastic story,” Yorkey said.
The production opened in Chicago in late 2008. Producers continued the Chicago engagement even as the Broadway production opened last month — a testament to the musical’s popularity.
The announcement last week followed the praise heaped upon the groundbreaking “Next to Normal” — a warts-and-all look at the impact of bipolar disorder on a suburban family.
Yorkey and writing partner Tom Kitt won the Tony for Best Original Score last year. “Next to Normal” also won statuettes for Best Orchestrations and Best Performance by a Leading Actress.
The writing duo and “Next to Normal” earned the Pulitzer Prize for Drama last month. Yorkey and Kitt will collect the award May 24.
“Next to Normal” originated at Village Theatre in 2002 as “Feeling Electric.” The attention for “Million Dollar Quartet” could further raise the profile of the regional theater.
“For us, for the theater, it really means that we have a role in developing new musicals that are significant,” Hunt said.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or email@example.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.
And the nominees are
“Million Dollar Quartet” faces other blockbuster musicals in the quest for Tony Awards next month.
Theater brass nominated the production developed at Village Theatre for three statuettes. The honorees will be announced June 13 in a splashy ceremony aired on CBS.
Besides “Million Dollar Quartet,” other Best Musical nominees include “Fela!” — the story of Nigerian composer and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti; “Memphis” — about the first white disc jockey to play music by black artists; and “American Idiot” — a rock opera developed from a Green Day album of the same name.
The category for Best Book of a Musical pits “Million Dollar Quartet” against the musical memoir “Everyday Rapture,” “Memphis” and “Fela!”
“Million Dollar Quartet” actor Levi Kreis faces Kevin Chamberlin from the screen-to-stage adaptation of “The Addams Family,” Robin De Jesús from the gender-bending “La Cage aux Folles” and Christopher Fitzgerald from the fantasy “Finian’s Rainbow” for the Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical statuette.