New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

Scott Moreau Is Back As The Man In Black

By Gary Wien

originally published: 03/27/2017

Scott Moreau Is Back As The Man In Black

Imagine being a fly on the wall during one of the most iconic moments in music history.  The setting is Sun Records in Memphis in 1956 where an impromptu jam session involving Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins takes place.  It was a moment in time when the stars truly aligned.  The story was immortalized in the musical Million Dollar Quartet, which is being presented at Paper Mill Playhouse.

Paper Mill’s production includes James Barry (Carl Perkins), Scott Moreau (Johnny Cash), and Jake Rowley (Elvis Presley) from the national tour of Million Dollar Quartet.  Jason Loughlin (Sam Phillips), Nat Zegree (Jerry Lee Lewis), Bligh Voth (Dyanne), David Sonneborn (Fluke), and Sam Weber (Brother Jay) round out the cast.  Tony Award nominee Hunter Foster is the director.

Moreau is approaching his 800th show portraying Johnny Cash. He’s also a huge fan of the Man in Black.   He says he grew up a fan of the music of the era (everything from Elvis to the Everly Brothers to Neil Sedaka) because those were the records his parents had. When he first got involved with Million Dollar Quartet, playing Cash was a natural fit.

“For me, it wasn’t going back to find Johnny Cash, I had always known who he was even as a kid,” explained Moreau.  “I became a big fan in the 1990s when Cash started releasing the American Recordings, which became the last records of his life.  Once I got into that, I couldn’t get enough.  I started buying everything I could find - bootlegs and demo records.  I started buying books and reading them voraciously.”

You could say Moreau was born to play Cash.  Shortly after he became a die-hard fan, Ring of Fire headed to regional theatre.  Moreau wound up being part of that show several times.  In fact, he was directing a production of Ring of Fire in Indiana when he got the call for the national tour of Million Dollar Quartet. And he hasn’t looked back since.  He even released an album entitled Home Of The Blues: A Tribute to Johnny Cash At Sun Studio with his band Scott Moreau and the Died Drunk Boys.

The article continues after this ad


The actual jam session at Sun Records that inspired the play contained a few hits by Elvis and Chuck Berry, but mostly featured gospel songs the four musicians had known all their lives.  The musical takes a few liberties with history and substitutes the gospel songs with plenty of classics from the early days of rock and roll.  Songs include “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Walk the Line,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” and “Folsom Prison Blues.”  

Moreau says his favorite song to play is “Walk The Line” — one that he has performed many times from the Cash musicals to his own band shows.

“I’ve done that song well over a thousand times and it’s challenging every time I do it,” said Moreau.  “It’s vocally challenging; it meant a lot to him each time he performed it; and it means a lot to me.  It’s not a throw away easy song.  It has a lot of meaning - to Johnny, to me, and to a lot of people.”

Another favorite from the show is “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man” - a song by Chuck Berry that was part of the actual session at Sun.  In the musical, everybody gets involved in the song.  It starts off with Jerry Lee Lewis singing in the beginning, then Carl Perkins sings a verse, and then Elvis.  Meanwhile, everyone is on stage playing an instrument.

“That’s sort of the moment where we all have camaraderie,” said Moreau.  “And things just roll from there.”

Acting is always about portraying a moment as if it is happening in real time for the very first time, but this play poses a challenge because both the actors and the audience know what happens to these artists later in life.  While Elvis was a big star at the time, he had not yet become the legendary iconic figure.  Carl Perkins was riding high with the success of “Blue Suede Shoes” but his career was just only in its infancy.  Meanwhile, Jerry Lee Lewis’ career hadn’t even gotten started yet; he was just a piano session musician for the studio at the time.  And Johnny Cash’s famous struggles with addiction and other demons weren’t even an issue at the time.  He was just a guy with two young daughters trying to make a living.

Moreau says he noticed similarities between the young Johnny Cash fighting for everything he got and the life of an actor.  “Fighting tooth and nail for auditions, trying to be seen and be turned away, pulling yourself up from your boot straps and heading to your next audition,” he explained.  “I think there are a lot of things from his early life that I draw from.  And since I have met and am friends with many people who were in his life, if I have a question I just ask, ‘What would Johnny do here? If somebody said this to him, how would he react?’  It’s understanding that people will probably come in with preconceived notions of what they think he will be like and just going back to the source and finding the honesty, the truth and essence of what he was like and bringing that to the performances.”

Another challenge for the cast is that jam sessions are supposed to be a spontaneous display of creativity.  How do you recreate that vibe night after night? How do you keep it fresh after hundreds of performances?  Moreau says it’s easier than you would think.  He points out how even though they try to be consistent each time they perform, there are a myriad of things which affect the way the songs come out.  Everything from broken guitar strings to blown amplifier tubes and dropped picks will make each performance unique.

“I’ve done the show with James Barry (who plays Carl Perkins) 500 times,” said Moreau.  “He doesn’t play the same solo every single night.  Generally, it is relatively the same but he will add something in or try something different once in a while.  This makes it quite different.  I think that’s the beauty and the challenge of the show - you strive to make it consistent and do it relatively the same every time but you have so many different factors that are coming at you every night that it’s slightly different all of the time.  I think it makes it exciting for the audience and it makes it exciting and challenging for us as well.”

“Most directors talk about this but Hunter (Foster) certainly talks about it since a lot of us have done the show before,” continued Moreau.  “If something starts to feel stale or starts to feel like you already see it coming, that’s when it doesn’t work.  Everything always has to be a surprise.  When Cash walks into Sun, he doesn’t know what’s about to happen.  And if he does, it looks like I’m playing the end of the show and the piece doesn’t work.  You have to believe this is happening for the first time, right now, at this moment as you are watching it.”

It’s all about authenticity.  That’s what actors seek to portray and one of the reasons Moreau believes the music of Johnny Cash is still so relevant.  Moreau says that in interviews Cash always sounded like where he was from and never forgot where he was from.  There was a sense of authenticity about him.  That, and simply being a bad ass, are reasons why his legend continues and why his popularity crossed over from the world of country music to rock and roll and even punk rock.  Cash never worried about speaking his mind even when he was going against what was popular or what was expected of him. 

Listening to Moreau talk about Cash, it’s clear this is a role he is in no hurry to leave.  People are always asking him if he is tired of playing the Man in Black.  Moreau tells them he feels lucky to be able to do what he always wanted to do and get paid for doing it. He has acted since he was around 15 years old.  It’s safe to say acting was one of two dreams he had.  As a kid, Moreau wanted to be a pro baseball player.  As to be expected for someone growing up in the New England region, he grew up a Boston Red Sox fan. 

“The first time I did Damn Yankees, it was a beautiful mix of worlds,” recalled Moreau.  “I do musical theatre for a living and this is a show where I get to wear a baseball uniform, hold a bat, throw a ball, and talk about hating the Yankees! What could be better? Well, how about a musical where I play Johnny Cash…”

Scott Moreau Is Back As The Man In Black

March 29 - April 23 at Paper Mill Playhouse  

22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, NJ

For more by this author, click here

The Panto Company Presents "Beauty and the Beast" at The Newton Theatre
(NEWTON, NJ) -- When you think of a dying rose and a clock, candlestick andteapot who talk... you are thinking Beauty and the Beast. One of this season's spellbinding family shows from The Panto Company USA stars Dame Dotty Potty, Loopy Louie, Gaston, Belle and of course The Beast!  The company brings their show to The Newton Theatre on Sunday, March 3 at 3:00pm.
La Strada Ensemble Theater Presents "La Bella Familia" by Edwin Sanchez
(OCEAN GROVE, NJ) -- La Strada Ensemble Theater presents La Bella Familia by Edwin Sanchez from January 18-20.  The play deals with a Puerto Rican hit woman and the gentlest man in the world move next door to the neighbors from hell and everyone learns, the hard way, that family comes first.
Art House Productions Presents "The Passion Project" by Reid Farrington
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Art House Productions presents the unique theatrical experience that is Reid Farrington’s The Passion Project performed by Laura K. Nicoll.  Eight performances will take place from February 21st to March 3rd. The Passion Project is a 30 minute vibration between performance, film, and installation. Carl Th.Dreyer’s 1928 immortal masterpiece, “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is the main narrative along with the history behind the making of the film, a discussion with a Danish archivist, the story of making this project, as well as Joan’s own story –– her trial, torture, and execution. The Passion Project explodes the film into the three dimensions; placing the audience inside the film, sitting next to Joan, subjecting them to the relentless rhythm of 35 mm film projection.
4th Wall Theatre Presents "Intimate Apparel" by Lynn Nottage
(MAPLEWOOD, NJ) -- 4TH WALL THEATRE continues its 22nd season with a one weekend run of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel.  The show will be presented as part of the Black History Month celebrations on February 22, 23, and 24 at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts in Maplewood, NJ.  The show is directed by 4th Wall Executive Director Gwen Ricks-Spencer.
East Lynne Theater, the Henry Sawyer Inn, and Twin Gable's Inn present Murder Mystery Weekends
(CAPE MAY, NJ) -- The award-winning East Lynne Theater Company, with The Henry Sawyer Inn and Twin Gables Inn, present Murder Mystery Weekends on February 15-16, March 8-9, March 22-23, March 29-30, and April 5-6. Participants can test their crime-solving skills while staying in one of these lovely Bed & Breakfasts. East Lynne Theater Company's Murder Mystery Weekends were cited among one of the top five in the country by "AM NY."  

It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep
Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared. Those are often the most powerful.
Rise of the Goatman
Theater For The New City presents Beltsville/Rockville, Part 1: Rise of the Goatman, an original play by Englewood resident Matt Okin (Artistic Director of Black Box Studios), from December 27 through January 13. In this pseudo-Southern Gothic dark comedy, a vibrant group of teens from two very different suburban neighborhoods clash over class differences, drugs, and sex - and the existence of the legendary ‘Goatman’ in 1986. Cut to 2013, and the adolescent kids of those very same teens are struggling to make sense of their family histories - and the same “mythological” creature - that could be holding them back in life.
PHOTOS from "The Winter's Tale" at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run now through December 30. 
REVIEW: "It's A Wonderful Life" At Mile Square Theatre
Nestled in a corner of Hoboken, on the second floor, lies the studios of radio station WMST.  It’s a wonderful art deco studio, replete with fine wooden walls, embedded with colorful lights an applause sign.  On stage, we’ve got a few chairs, several microphones and a whole corner wedged with all the necessary props – piano, men’s shoes, sheet metal – to create the audio effects for the production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Betsy Aidem Puts A Woman's Touch On George Street Playhouse's "A Doll's House, Part 2"
Betsy Aidem is a veteran actress you might have seen on Broadway. Or maybe on an episode of “Law & Order: SVU.” Or maybe on the big screen last year in “The Greatest Showman.” But over the next few weeks in New Brunswick, Aidem is adding a brand-new section to her résumé — by helming a sequel (of sorts) to a classic play that’s more than 100 years old.

Event calendar
Thursday, Jan 17, 2019


Open Mic Night! @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 7:30pm


"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm


AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

View all events


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.