Playhouse Stage Co presents the world premiere of Jerry Lee Lewis Versus Jerry Lee Lewis by Jefferson McDonald
February 20th-March 8th at Cohoes Music Hall , 58 Remsen Street, Cohoes NY
Critics are calling it a “thrill ride” (Nippertown) and an “infectious celebration of the power of early rock ‘n’ roll” (Times Union). This world premiere is an examination of the tumultuous life and times of Jerry Lee Lewis from his religious upbringing through his rocketlike ascent to fame and subsequent downfall. The show culminates with a recreation of his iconic Live at the Star Club, Hamburg album, considered the hardest live rock ‘n’ roll album of all time. Rolling Stone says of it: it’s “not an album, it’s a crime scene. Recorded April 5th, 1964, this is the earliest and most feral of Lewis’ concert releases from his wilderness years, after he was banished from the radio and after he had left Sun Records.”
Playwright and actor-musician Jefferson McDonald returns for his third collaboration with Playhouse Stage Co and the Cohoes Music Hall stage after portraying Jerry Lee Lewis in their production of Million Dollar Quartet and Princeton/Rod in Avenue Q, for which he won a 2019 Broadway World Award for best actor in a musical in the Berkshire region. The show parses out Jerry Lee Lewis as the kind, God- fearing man who aspired to be a preacher and the egomaniacal wild child who introduced a generation to the power and appeal of the devil’s music. In this vein, the show enlists two actors to portray Jerry Lee and the Killer. Jerry Lee’s desire to preach and live an upright life is matched and bested by the Killer, an unseen force whose influence pushes Jerry Lee further from his faith towards the deceptive charms of fame, fortune, booze, pills and the devil’s music at his and his family’s expense. The show culminates in 1964 with his Star Club concert. The show is inspired by source material from interviews, television appearances and biographies, including Nick Tosche’s remarkable work, Hellfire. The cast of 7 actor-musicians play and sing and portray a variety of roles in a show that invites the audience to experience what life was like for a share-cropping family in Ferriday, Louisiana with no running water to the glamour of Jerry’s appearances on the Steve Allen Show and American Bandstand. The musical arrangements are transpositions from early Jerry Lee records and his Star Club concert, lending a true authenticity to the sound.
Director Ben Williamson, an advocate for fresh, vibrant, poignant new voices in theatre for many years, explains his attraction to the project: “The fascination and exploration of creating an experience with two Jerry Lee Lewises on stage was wonderfully creative to me,” says Williamson. “This play is driven with a conscious narrative into the why, how, and when Jerry Lee Lewis became the man we all know of today. The culmination of his life experiences and internal desire to express himself results in a plethora of iconic songs that affected a generation in need of something radical. With a winning combination of relatable, absurd, tender storytelling and rocking music numbers this new musical at its best is what Jerry Lee Lewis was exploring as well; daring to be different.” Rounding out the cast are Sean McGibbon as Killer, Marina Laurendi as Myra Brown and others, Parker Cross as Cowboy Jack and others, Tommy Crawford as J.W. Brown, Gene Garone as Barry Jenkins and Paul Reepmeyer as Mick Dunford. The productions sets are designed by Playhouse Stage’s own Tim Clow and costumes by Chris English.
Tickets and more information are available at http://www.parkplayhouse.com/jerry-lee
Box Office: 518-434-0776