By Bridgette M. Redman | January 22, 2021
Nine years ago, Scott Moreau took his years of experience performing as Johnny Cash and created a show for Arizona music lovers that has since traveled the country. Now, in 2021, it returns to the Valley with Moreau performing the one-man show at Arizona Broadway Theater from January 29 to February 21.
“It was the winter of 2012,” Moreau says. “(The show) was created for the good people of Arizona. J.R. McAlexander, the owner-operator of Showtune Productions out in the Valley, we’ve been colleagues for about 20 years, and while I was on the first national tour of ‘Million Dollar Quartet,’ he reached out and said a tribute to Johnny Cash would sell very well with his patrons in Arizona.”
Moreau took a week off from the tour and headed to the Valley. He started piecing together the Cash songs he wanted to sing and looking into anecdotes and stories of the singer. He strove to include Cash’s verbatim words in the musical tribute he would create called “Walkin’ the Line.”
When he returned to the tour, he continued to work on the musical, often bouncing ideas and scenes off his cast mates in their free time. Eventually, he would return and the show would premiere in the Valley.
The musical features such songs as “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Ring of Fire,” “A Boy Named Sue” and, of course, “Walk the Line.”
Keeping it safe at ABT
Moreau points out that not many theaters are producing anything right now, mostly because it is dangerous for crowds to gather or for actors — especially singers — to share a stage. It’s why he’s eager to do a show at ABT. He says that they are first and foremost about safety.
“There has been a lot of thought and planning going into keeping everyone safe,” Moreau says. “It’s not worth it to go and see a show if you aren’t safe in this day and age. I want everyone to know that this is not a situation where everyone is going to be mask free and running around and sitting next to each other. They’re taking this extremely seriously, and so am I.”
Both Moreau and the band (who will be masked) are distanced from the audience, and the audience will be distanced from each other. He says ABT has sent him an extremely comprehensive plan about how to keep everyone safe and sound.
“Arizona Broadway is really on the right path,” Moreau says. “They are doing their best to stay as safe as possible. I know a lot of people are anxious — I’m slightly anxious.
“But I have no doubt that they have my safety and the safety of their patrons in mind.”
Spending a lifetime with Cash
Moreau grew up listening to Cash. He talks about how when he was little, his parents would play their favorite records and dance in the living room. He would do his best to sing along with such artists as Cash, the Everly Brothers and the Beach Boys.
In his early 20s, he was introduced to the music Cash was making toward the end of his life, and it transformed his career.
“That’s when I started to get obsessed, buying everything and reading everything, and wouldn’t let him go,” Moreau says. “It has just kind of continued. Luckily it wasn’t just fandom; it was a large part of my career. Johnny’s music and his message and life have had an immeasurable impact on my life.”
Moreau says performing as Cash has taken him all over the country and to such far-flung places as Japan. He’s met members of the Cash family, been able to try on some of his clothes and play Cash’s guitars.
Moreau spent years on tour playing Cash in “The Million Dollar Quartet,” a musical about the December 4, 1956, afternoon Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins got together for an impromptu jam session. Moreau says he has met some of the best people from his life while doing that musical.
“I can’t be more thankful for his life and legacy,” Moreau says. “It’s been a blessing to play him pretty much up until the pandemic for 40 to 50 weeks of the year.”
Exploring Cash’s life
In “Walkin’ the Line,” Moreau speaks as Cash the entire time. While he sings many of Cash’s greatest hits, he also tries to give insight into Cash’s life, his friendships, and why and how he wrote certain songs.
“One thing I try to capture a good amount that the average fan doesn’t know about or understand — he had an extremely good sense of humor,” Moreau says. “He was large and imposing and sometimes a dark person. He had an extremely outgoing personality and was a cutup. I really try to bring that into a lot of my stage banter.”
In preparation for creating the musical and in its ongoing evolution, Moreau spends a lot of time watching and analyzing his concerts so he can replicate who Cash was as a performer. He says he tries to be as close to Cash as humanly possible, leaving any semblance of his own personality behind.
“The performances of his songs and his songwriting is a major part of his performances, but so is his sense of humor and his authenticity,” Moreau says. “The people who come to see these types of shows don’t want to see me as Johnny Cash; they want to remember what it was like to see him on television or live.”
Walkin’ the Line
When: January 29 to February 21
Where: Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 W. Paradise Lane, Peoria