The jam began as a Carl Perkins' recording session, with new Sun signing Jerry Lee Lewis playing piano. Former Sun Records' artist Elvis Presley decided to drop in to see label owner Sam Phillips, the man who had signed him, so Sam invited another Sun star, Johnny Cash, to join the party, taking the opportunity to make the official announcement that he was willing to extend Johnny's contract by three years.
What a great premise for a musical production! The audience is treated to over 20 rock 'n' roll classics, beginning with Blue Suede Shoes and concluding with Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On which had everyone in the theatre on their feet, dancing along. In between is a fine cross section of songs, including Peace In The Valley, Walk The Line, Long Tall Sally and Down By the Riverside.
Legendary: The cast recreate the iconic photograph taken on December 4, 1956
What the production reveals is the contrast between the happiness and optimism of the performers when they are singing and their unhappiness and pessimism when they are not.
In the non-singing role of Sam Phillips, Jason Donovan acts as both narrator and participant, moving the story along and introducing the flashbacks that explain how each singer came to be signed to Sun Records.
Narrator: Jason Donovan with James Swinnerton
We see that Carl Perkins (Birmingham-born Matt Wycliffe) is bitter that his self-penned number one hit, Blue Suede Shoes, was purloined by Elvis, so much so that people thought Carl's version was a cover of Elvis' hit. With Carl now desperately trying to find another hit, he complains that Jerry Lee Lewis is putting too much piano on his guitar records.
Bitter: Matt Wycliffe as Carl Perkins
Johnny Cash (Robbie Durham) is also despondent as Sam has told him he can't make a Gospel record. Sam doesn't know that another record company is willing to release a Cash album of sacred songs.
Elvis (Ross William Wild) is frustrated for the opposite reason. Sam had sold his contract to RCA Records for $40,000, money that kept Sun in business. Despite Elvis now being a megastar, making movies in Hollywood, he yearns to return to the family atmosphere of Sun Records.
And then there is Jerry Lee Lewis (Martin Kaye), the joker in the pack. He's apparently the only one happy with his lot except he has doubts about the fact that he plays 'the devil's music'. Young, enthusiastic and confident that one day he'll be a megastar, it's Jerry Lee that gets the audience laughing and dancing.
Joker: Martin Kaye as Jerry Lee Lewis
We also meet Elvis' girlfriend Dyanne (Katie Ray) who shows she can hold a tune with the best of them on Fever and I Hear You Knocking.
These types of productions stand or fall on the musical abilities of the cast and in this respect Million Dollar Quartet is a real winner. The actors sound like the stars they are portraying and the musicianship is first class. Matthew Wycliffe's electric guitar playing is a joy and there is superb backing from the rhythm section of drummer Ben Cullingworth and double bassist James Swinnerton.
It has to be said, though, that Martin Kaye as Jerry Lee is the show-stealer. Manchester-born Martin is in his fifth year with the show, having toured the US with it and starred in its Las Vegas residency. He's simply superb as the high-energy, wise-cracking Jerry Lee and, boy, can he play the piano! Great Balls of Fire and Chuck Berry's Brown Eyed Handsome Man nearly raised the Hippodrome roof! If you want a rock 'n' roll party, this is the place to be.
Party: Million Dollar Quartet
Million Dollar Quartet 2016/ 17 UK tour dates:
Until Oct 29: Birmingham Hippodrome;
Oct 31 Nov 5: Edinburgh Festival Theatre;
Nov 7 Nov 12: Grand Theatre, Leeds;
Nov 14 Nov 19: King's Theatre, Glasgow;
Nov 22 Nov 26: Southampton Mayflower;
Nov 28 Dec 3: Bristol Hippodrome;
Dec 17 Jan 2: Royal Festival Hall London;
Feb 6 Feb 11: Richmond Theatre;
Feb 13 Feb 18: Liverpool Empire;
Feb 20 Feb 25: Bord Gαis Energy Theatre;
Feb 28 Mar 4: Canterbury Marlowe;
Mar 6 Mar 18: Theatre Royal, Newcastle;
Mar 13 Mar 18: Southend Cliffs Pavilion;
Mar 28 Apr 1: New Victoria Theatre, Woking;
Apr 3 Apr 8: Marina Theatre Lowestoft;
Apr 10 Apr 15: Brighton Theatre Royal;
Apr 18 Apr 22: Royal & Derngate, Northampton;
Apr 25 Apr 29: Belfast Grand Opera House;
May 2 May 6: Cardiff New Theatre;
May 8 May 13: Venue Cymru, Llandudno;
May 15 May 20: Manchester Palace Theatre;
May 22 May 27: Norwich Theatre Royal;
May 30 June 3: Shrewsbury Theatre Severn.