Theatre review: Million Dollar Quartet

Chance changed the course of history when Elvis Presley dropped in at Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee to catch up with his old mentor, Sam Phillips, writes John Shawcroft.

Elvis had left Sun for RCA Victor a year earlier – the money helped keep Sun going - and was heading for legendary status.

He found Carl Perkins, who had enjoyed a hit with Blue Suede Shoes, cutting new tracks.

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Phillips had invited a young upstart, Jerry Lee Lewis, to provide backing on piano and another Sun artist, Johnny Cash, was in the studio.

On that day – Tuesday December 4, 1956 - the four began an impromptu jam session. Phillips left the tapes running and thus Million Dollar Quartet was born.

This fine show (running at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal until Saturday) evokes the era with authenticity.

Clearly, the quartet with 23 iconic numbers is the centrepiece but this is much more than just another jukebox musical.

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It’s Sam Phillips’s story and the innovative work he did at Sun. Here, Jason Donovan captures his character to perfection with an authentic Deep South accent masking a shrewd businessman.

Four superb actor-musicians fill the roles – Ross William Wild (Presley), Robbie Durham (Cash), Matt Wycliffe (Perkins) and Martin Kaye (Lewis) along with Katie Ray as Dyanne, a girl singer Presley has in tow.

The background story has Cash and Perkins trying to find the courage to tell Phillips they are moving to Columbia Records. But Lewis remains and Phillips is optimistic: “I have just signed this peculiar-looking guy, funny name, Roy Orbison.”

n Call the box office for ticket details on 0115 9895555 or go to

Photo of the cast in action is by Darren Bell.