As an experienced drummer who has played gigs with bands and pit orchestras, East Hampton native Anthony Genovesi is used to performing near the back of the stage. Or underneath it.
Now, for the first time, he’s front and center, making his stage debut in “Million Dollar Quartet,” which opened at Babylon’s Argyle Theatre on May 18. Running through June 23, the musical imagines what it must’ve been like at the real-life 1956 Memphis recording session that drew Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. Genovesi plays drummer Fluke Holland and, like the other cast members, actually plays onstage a slew of 1950s hits, from “Blue Suede Shoes” to “Hound Dog.”
“The biggest challenge is being in character . . . and on . . . for the whole show,” says Genovesi.
A rising star in the East End music scene, Genovesi, 17, has been working as a freelance musician in recent years, playing venues like The Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett and the Grey Lady and Swallow East in Montauk. Last January he graduated early from East Hampton High School to devote himself to his career full time.
While playing drums in the Argyle pit for “The Producers” earlier this spring, he made such a good impression with staffers that “a light bulb went off in all of us and we knew he’d fit right in onstage,” says the Argyle’s artistic director, Evan Pappas.
Genovesi started playing drums at age 4, when his parents bought him a drum set from Toys "R" Us. The tyke quickly noted it was missing key components, like a tom-tom drum and hi-hat. (Those came later.) In middle school he joined a teen heavy metal band, Red Tide, and played their first gig — at the Amagansett Free Library. “It was rough,” he admits, laughing, “but a switch flipped in my brain and I knew what I wanted to do.”
Drummers are often the unsung heroes of a band. There may be a slew of guitars or horns, but the drummer is the catalyst, responsible for “the tempo, the energy, the feel,” says Genovesi.
And dialogue? He’s a little worried about his delivery but is up for the challenge. Playing new music, and trying new things onstage “will only help make me a better musician,” he says.
As a drummer, he’s already “a consummate professional, a real team player,” says Pappas. “To top it all off he’s a good actor, too. He’s gonna have one heckuva career.”