The­atre North­west marks Mil­lion Dol­lar Quar­tet an­niver­sary

The Prince George Citizen - - Local - Frank PEE­BLES Ci­ti­zen staff fpee­[email protected]­i­t­i­zen.ca

On the an­niver­sary of the day the ac­tual Mil­lion Dol­lar Quar­tet meet­ing oc­curred in Mem­phis in 1956, The­atre North­west was cel­e­brat­ing the same way Sun Records staff must have back in those hal­cyon days.

On Tues­day, TNW’s artis­tic di­rec­tor Jack Grin­haus was sur­vey­ing the golden tal­ent burst­ing forth from his stage the way leg­endary rock ‘n’ roll im­pre­sario Sam Phillips must have been beam­ing about the gold records spin­ning on his plat­ters dur­ing those first years of rock ‘n’ roll.

Grin­haus and TNW are clos­ing in on an at­ten­dance record that looks cer­tain to fall if cur­rent ticket sales con­tinue for Mil­lion Dol­lar Quar­tet, the play that is a hit with lo­cal au­di­ences like none other.

“Some­thing about it hit a note with this au­di­ence,” he said on the an­niver­sary day. “The orig­i­nal record was set back in the days of Ted Price (found­ing artis­tic di­rec­tor) when he did All Shook Up, then Saman­tha (MacDon­ald, TNW’s pre­vi­ous artis­tic di­rec­tor) did The Buddy Holly Story and broke that record. And now this one looks like it’ll set a new mark and it is Mil­lion Dol­lar Quar­tet. There’s a pat­tern here, and part of it is the abil­ity of the play to cross all the di­ver­si­ties of back­ground. Young, old, dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties and dif­fer­ent so­cioe­co­nomic back­grounds – ev­ery­one is com­ing and ev­ery­one is lov­ing it.”

They are com­ing more than once, in many cases. Grin­haus has never de­tected so many fans com­ing back for mul­ti­ple view­ings of a TNW play.

An­other rare con­di­tion un­der­way with Mil­lion Dol­lar Quar­tet is the ca­ma­raderie of the cast and crew. Grin­haus said it is com­mon for the cre­ative team to be­come quite close dur­ing the run of a play, some­times mak­ing val­ued friends for life, but in this case the mood is par­tic­u­larly light and the bonds tight­ened by all the mu­sic in­volved. It must, he spec­u­lated, be some­what how it was when these four stars – Elvis Pres­ley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Karl Perkins – got to­gether to jam back on that De­cem­ber day in Mem­phis in 1956.

“I love that this com­pany is hav­ing so much fun with it,” he said. “You can tell, from the au­di­ence re­ac­tions, that this cast is hav­ing an un­be­liev­able time to­gether. That trans­lates. Even dur­ing their off-times they are jam­ming, just play­ing songs and singing with each other. I’ve never seen an ex­change of en­ergy that is so pal­pa­ble be­tween a cast and an au­di­ence. You can lit­er­ally see the ex­change go­ing on, and there is a very phys­i­cal rea­son why: be­cause in our the­atre the au­di­ence is so close to the stage, the way our stage is con­fig­ured with out seats. It’s a closer re­la­tion­ship. When this play gets per­formed in a stan­dard soft-seater, the phys­i­cal ar­range­ment is not as in­ti­mate.”

The play is now on at TNW un­til Dec. 20. It is not un­prece­dented for a play to be held over at the city’s one and only pro­fes­sional the­atre com­pany, but if pro­jec­tions carry on ac­cord­ing to pat­tern, none of them will have sold as many over­all tick­ets as this one.

Fol­low­ing Mil­lion Dol­lar Quar­tet, the next plays com­ing to the TNW stage this sea­son in­clude the Cana­dian clas­sic heart­warm­ing drama The Oc­cu­pa­tion Of Heather Rose (Feb. 7-24) and the light­hearted laugh-out-loud com­edy Meet My Sis­ter (Mar. 28-Apr. 17) which is a world pre­miere.

Those tick­ets are on sale now and rep­re­sent solid lo­cal arts op­tions for the Christ­mas stock­ing.

CI­TI­ZEN FILE PHOTO

Ed­ward Mur­phy, Frankie Cot­trell, Ken­ton Klassen, bassist Cur­tis Abriel and drum­mer Daniel Bell re­hearse a scene from The­atre North­west’s pro­duc­tion of Mil­lion Dol­lar Quar­tet.

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