IF YOU GO
What: Jukebox musical that captures one afternoon when Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley met at a Memphis recording studio
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday; 5:30 p.m. & 8:30 p.m. Friday (Dec. 20-23)
Where: Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts, 5833 Pelican Bay Boulevard, Naples
Information: 800-597-1900 or thephil.org
Something Else: Cast members will perform on Tuesday, Dec. 20 at noon and 2 p.m. at the Waterside Shops.
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Neapolitan audiences flipping through the playbills for pre-Christmas show "Million Dollar Quartet" should pause over one name - that of Scott Moreau. The actor, singer and musician honed his craft for years in Southwest Florida. He's canvassing the country as part of the show's national tour.
"There really isn't anything that ISN'T good about being on tour," Moreau said. "I mean, I miss my car ... but being involved with this show is a dream come true.
"Million Dollar Quartet" captures one brilliant afternoon in American musical history when Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley drifted into a Memphis, Tennessee recording studio at Sun Records. The impromptu December 4, 1956 jam session was the only time the four men ever recorded together.
Numbers include such memorable tunes as "Blue Suede Shoes," "Folsom Prison Blues, "Sixteen Tons," "Long Tall Sally," "I Walk the Line," "Great Balls of Fire," "Hound Dog" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On."
Moreau grew up listening to the tunes from that era - the 50s and 60s - The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Billy Joel and the Everly Brothers.
"There was something about the harmonies they sang, how they sang them, and how pure their voices were," he said. "It really got me interested in singing in choir, and eventually theatre."
Still, despite singing from the time he was two or three, he said that his youth was spent trying to become a professional baseball player. It wasn't until a trip to London at the age of 14 that he realized theatre was where he wanted to be.
"While we were there I got to see 'Les Miserables," Moreau said. "[It was] an amazing, life changing moment. It was the first time I saw a show and said 'Yes. I want to do that!'"
The road to "Million Dollar Quartet" was anything but smooth. Moreau went through several months of auditions and callbacks before landing the part.
"It was kind of a whirlwind," Moreau said. "I mean, really the auditions and callbacks I did were over about 2 or 3 months, but it always seemed so busy. In all, I guess I did two primary auditions and 4 callbacks, all in New York City."
At the time, he was playing the role of Johnny Brown in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" at the Dutch Apple Theatre in Lancaster, Pa., a sister theater to the Broadway Palm. Several times, he would leave New York and make it back to the theater in Pennsylvania just in time for the show's half-hour call.
After "Molly Brown" closed, Moreau headed to Nappanee, Indiana to direct Johnny Cash jukebox musical "Ring of Fire," a show he starred in for more than 175 performances at all three Prather Entertainment facilities in Florida, Arizona and Pennsylvania.
"I've been a huge Johnny Cash fan for years," Moreau said. "I've read more than 20 books by, or about him. I own pretty much every piece of music he's ever recorded, and I have tons of videos of him performing and acting."
It was there, while rehearsing for "Ring of Fire," that Moreau got "the call."
"There's a little inside joke most theatre performers share about getting a call from a 212 area code," he said. "Whenever we do, we joke that it's 'Broadway calling.'"
This time. It really was.
"I was observing music rehearsal, and my phone rang," Moreau said. "It was a call from a 212 number that I didn't recognize, and it happened to be the day that I was told I would hear by. I ran outside, and couldn't catch the call, which went to voicemail. I almost passed out."
He immediately called back and was made an offer.
"The only words I heard were, 'We would like to offer you a role on the 1st National Tour of Million Dollar Quartet,'" Moreau said.
Moreau called his parents and his girlfriend, walked back into rehearsal and told his cast the good news.
He's the understudy for Johnny Cash and Sam Phillips in the show, which means he goes on when the principals are sick or hurt. The tour has six understudies - and in the world of world of "Million Dollar Quartet," they are dubbed the "Thunderstudies."
"There are three of us who understudy two people. One understudies the bass and drums, and the other, my good buddy, understudies Cash and Elvis," Moreau said. "We do rehearsals all the time; some are just us jamming through the show, some are full runs onstage. My favorites are when Billy and I play Phillips and Elvis, and each of us do 'half Cash.' It's kinda hilarious."
While he may not be in front of the crowds every night, Moreau is just as busy as anyone else in the cast and isn't - as he quipped offhandedly - "the tour janitor!" He makes regular promotional appearances on behalf of the tour and also blogs and makes hilarious videos at scottmoreauontour.blogspot.com.
One of the experiences that has touched him the most has been the tour's involvement with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the nonprofit theatrical charity that has raised $195M since 1988.
"A couple of nights ago I was in the lobby collecting for BC/EFA and a gentleman came up to me," Moreau said. "He told me that he was HIV positive, and he said "You have no idea what it means to me, and a whole lot of people that you are doing this. God bless you.' That's something I'll carry with me well after tour is over."
As for what's next, Moreau doesn't know. He hopes to say with "Million Dollar Quartet" as long as he can, possibly with either the New York or Chicago casts.
"I just can't explain how much I love this show and the company itself," Moreau said. "You never know... Maybe they'll start a production in Zimbabwe or something. If so, I'm all over it."