Whole lotta music

'Million Dollar Quartet': 4 rock legends together
2013-05-02T00:00:00Z Whole lotta musicKathleen Allen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 02, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When Billy Woodward was a young boy, he and his pop would sit on the porch of their Maryland home and sing Elvis songs together.

Billy is young no more (he's 31), but he hasn't abandoned the Elvis songs: He plays the King of Rock 'n' Roll in "The Million Dollar Quartet," coming to the Old Pueblo next week.

"I thank my pop for my being a big Elvis fan," Woodward says in a phone call from New Orleans, where the musical was settin' for a spell.

"When I was a kid, Elvis was like folklore. We would watch all his old videotapes. It's just incredible to pay homage to him."

"Million Dollar Quartet" is about a legendary day in rock 'n' roll history - Dec. 4, 1956. That was the day that Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins crowded into the tiny Sun Records studios in Nashville and jammed.

The R&R greats were all Southern boys who made records with Sun, run by Sam Phillips.

While the session was recorded (you can even buy the record), the eventful day seemed prime for the stage and a jukebox musical. Come on, now, how could it get any better than the songs those artists sang performed by artists who can re-create the sound? (Sure, we could long for the originals, but that chance no longer exists.)

A couple of years ago, Washington, D.C.-based Woodward and his band, Billy Woodward and the Senders, were asked to perform a couple of Elvis songs for a charity event.

"There was a scout (for the musical) there looking for an Elvis, and I got an email a week later," Woodward recalls.

The timing was good - Woodward had just quit his job as an animator so he could concentrate on his music.

He snagged the job and has been on the road with "Million Dollar Quartet" since.

Oh, there were a few challenges along the way.

"I had to deconstruct how to wiggle the hips," he says, referring to Elvis' below-the-waist moves that were so scandalous at the time that when he was on the "Ed Sullivan Show," the camera shot him only from the waist up.

Woodward - as do all the actors portraying the musicians - plays the music in the show.

That part was easy for him. He's learned a lot about acting since signing on for the show.

And he knows this: Impersonating a character is quite different from playing one.

"We aren't doing imitations," he says.

"When I'm playing Elvis, I like to think I bring my own raw intensity to it. ... I feel quite a bit of responsibility. ... I tried to make sure that I bring what he (the pre-fame Elvis) was - a humble, soft-spoken polite Southern boy who loved his music."

If you go

• What: "Million Dollar Quartet," presented by Broadway in Tucson.

• By: Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux.

• Director: Eric Schaeffer.

• When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through next Thursday; 8 p.m. May 10; 2 and 8 p.m. May 11; 1 and 6:30 p.m. May 12.

• Where: Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave.

• Tickets: $29-$69.

• Reservations, information: broadwayintucson.com or at 1-800-745-3000. Buy your tickets in person at the TCC box office, 260 S. Church Ave., to avoid the Ticketmaster handling fee.

• Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.

• Cast: Includes James Barry, David Elkins, Ben Goddard and Billy Woodward

Legendary rock 'n' roll

To say "Million Dollar Quartet"is loaded with hits is an understatement: Some you'll hear:

"Blue Suede Shoes"

"Who Do You Love?"

"Folsom Prison Blues"

"Memories Are Made of This"

"That's All Right, Mama"

"Down by the Riverside"

"Long Tall Sally"

"Peace in the Valley"

"I Walk the Line"

"Great Balls of Fire"

"Hound Dog"

"See You Later, Alligator"

"Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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