For Ben Hale, reprising his role as Johnny Cash in this summer’s Tuacahn production of “Million Dollar Quartet” is a little like coming home.
As a former student of Dixie State University, Hale’s performing career has taken him across the nation to tackle roles including Raoul in Phantom of the Opera in Las Vegas, Johnny Cash in Ring of Fire in Florida and New York, as well as recording his own music in Nashville. But the first time he was cast in the Las Vegas production of Million Dollar Quartet he was surprised by how much his time living with his grandparents in Ivins, Utah during college seemed to influence him.
“My grandpa was always watching all the old classic cowboy movies from John Wayne to James Dean,” Hale said. “He had this incredible baritone voice. In the morning I wouldn’t even need an alarm clock because his natural speaking voice would just shake the walls.”
Laughing at the memory, Hale added, “It wasn’t that he was being loud, his voice was just so deep.”
It’s a sound audiences will be able to relate to when Hale’s version of Johnny Cash steps up to “Walk the Line” inside the Indoor Hafen Theatre at Tuacahn this summer.
A Tony Award winning musical, “Million Dollar Quartet” is based on a dramatization of the 1956 recording session that included well-known artists Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and, up and comer at the time, Jerry Lee Lewis.
“In rock and roll history it’s one of those amazing moments that happen and is almost mythical,” said Keith Andrews, director for “Million Dollar Quartet.”
The musical itself has a magical quality as well. After all, it’s hard not to get swept away in the high-energy and nostalgia of so many amazing hits from the names that changed the music industry forever.
“It’s going to be electric,” Andrews said.
For many people — including most of the performers — it’s been more than a year since they’ve seen the curtain rise on a live performance. For Andrews, that absence created a void that can’t be filled in any other way. And for this production, he expects the anticipation of a return to live theater will make an already exciting show even better.
“A show like ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ usually rocks the house,” Andrews said. “After this last year... I think they’re going to blow the roof off the place.”
The entire cast from Tuacahn’s 2018 production of the show will be returning for the 2021 version. Once again all the actors will be playing their own instruments, which is one of the things that makes “Million Dollar Quartet” unique.
“All the music comes from the people on stage,” Andrews said. “There are no recorded tracks and no back stage band, so it’s like watching one of the greatest rock bands ever on stage.”
With characters like Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash, people likely expect to hear their favorite music. What often comes as a surprise is the heart the storyline brings to the show.