Performing professionally since the age of 13, Eric Stang is making his NYC stage debut as Jerry Lee Lewis in MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at New World Stages. In addition to portraying “The Killer” eight times a week Eric also writes and records music with his band Polarcode.
You are a musician first, what made you jump from being just a musician to joining the cast of a hit Broadway and off-Broadway show like MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET?
Actually I was asked to audition by the show’s casting agency, but I had previously seen the show in Chicago and really enjoyed it. As much as I love playing music, I’ve always had an interest in acting, so I jumped at the opportunity.
How do you prepare for portraying a public figure, such as Jerry Lee Lewis in MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET?
I listened to many Jerry Lee Lewis recordings and watched videos of him playing the songs we do in our show. Portraying Jerry Lee can be difficult because many people are familiar with Dennis Quaid’s performance from the movie “Great Balls Of Fire” and expect something along those lines. Although I respect Quaid’s performance, I’ve tried to put my own stamp on portraying him. By combining the footage of Jerry Lee that I have seen with my own experiences of being a young, ambitious piano player/singer, I have tried to create a unique and honest portrayal.
Being part of a hit Broadway & off-Broadway show is a unique experience regardless of your background. What is one thing you’ve learned or experienced since joining MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET that you didn’t expect?
I’ve definitely learned how hard it is to perform the show 8 times a week and keep it fresh. Luckily I work with a great cast that always wants to have fun onstage, so that makes it easier.
Every performer has that one moment where it just “clicks” that performing is what they want to do for a career. What was that moment for you?
When I was about 7 years old, I learned how to play my first blues song on the piano. I gave an impromptu performance in front of some classmates at a party and everyone starting asking for my autograph on little paper plates. At that moment, I realized how much fun playing music could be, and how special it was to the people around me.
You are in the band Polarcode, which based on the bio on the band’s site started as a jam session. Much like that famous night MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET takes place on. How would you describe the sound and feel of Polarcode’s music?
I’ve taken a note from Jerry Lee Lewis and tried to make playing piano just as cool as playing guitar. So I started a band that has no guitar player in it, but still plays modern rock music. I play three keyboards in the band and one of them is a Fender Rhodes going through a Fender Twin guitar amp. It gives our band a very distinct sound with different layers of keyboards underneath soaring vocals. We are influenced by bands like Muse, Coldplay and Radiohead.
Performing in Polarcode is an amazing experience, because at my fingertips are many different textures and possibilities…soft strings, distorted Rhodes, crisp pianos, dirty synths….it’s like a keyboard player’s dream. As well, my band mates do a great job and are so much fun to play with!