Daniel Durston grew up with parents who were obsessed with Elvis Presley. The family would often travel to Las Vegas to watch shows featuring Elvis impersonators.
“My mom was a real fan of Elvis. She always had his movies on. Viva Las Vegas was her favorite,” says Durston who plays Elvis in Million Dollar Quartet. The Tony Award-winning musical will rock Altria Theater this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
The show capsulizes the night of December 4, 1956 when four young musicians – Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley – came together at Sun Records studio in Memphis for the first and only time. The result: one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll jam sessions in history.
Durston started auditioning for the touring production of the show about five years ago. Each time he would audition as Elvis. On his last audition he decided to switch it up and sing the songs of Johnny Cash. To his surprise he was asked to try Elvis instead. “I said absolutely. I love it that I got the part I really wanted,” he says.
This show will mark Durston’s acting debut. The California native grew up performing in community and high school theater. “I was a lead in the shows quite a bit and I learned everything I could,” he says.
When he was young and into music – he plays drums, guitar, bass and some piano – he told his dad he wanted to tour for the rest of his life. “I had a band of my own after high school. We toured around in a van,” he says.
Touring has become his life. He’s worked with the tours Memphis the Musical and Flashdance: The Musical as a professional musician as well as other productions.
In Million Dollar Quartet he gets to play the guitar. “I am a fan of that instrument,” he says, adding, “I love the 1950s. I love the rock ‘n’ roll generation.”
Since landing the role, he’s been doing extensive research on Elvis to round out his knowledge about the music legend. “I didn’t really know what Elvis had done for our world, people and music,” he says.
He was surprised to learn how poor Elvis really was before he gained fame and that he had a shy personality. “We all view him as a superstar. You don’t think that guy up there on stage was the guy that was scared to sing in front of his classmates,” he says. “I learn more about him every day. I try to watch a documentary on him daily.”
He’s discovering that he and Elvis share a long-lasting passion for music. “I can’t live without music and I’m finding out Elvis was so much like that. He just wanted to entertain,” Durston says.
He couldn’t happier with his fellow cast members, all of which also share his love of music. “We all grew up as musicians. We care about each other and I think that is what we bring out on stage,” he says.
When he’s not singing lead on a song, he is singing backup vocals or playing the guitar for the guys. “It’s very constant,” he says.
He hopes the music in the show will remind people of their high school dances or proms. “To be able to bring back some type of memory for them means a lot to me,” he says.
Million Dollar Quartet plays Altria Theater at 7:30 this Saturday, March 10. Tickets are available at the Altria Theater and Dominion Energy Center box offices, by phone at (800) 514-3849 and etix.com. Tickets start at $33. Tickets subject to applicable fees.