In 1956 rock-n-roll exploded with Elvis Presley's TV appearances unleashing waves of teenage of hysteria and outbreaks of handwringing from guardians of social morality.

At the heart of storm was Sun Records in Memphis Tennessee and the December night when four of the label's greatest talents were goofing around in Sam Phillips' storefront studio was the kind of encounter that creators of musical theatre would not dare to imagine.

Million Dollar Quartet portrays the historic night as a pivotal moment when the anarchic spirit of authentic youth culture collided with the inexorable logic of the entertainment industry.

The British touring production cast display superb musicianship as they channel the electrifying energy of early rock-n-roll and their performances open a window on the personalities of the dirt-poor loners and misfits who became over-night sensations under the guidance of Sam Phillips.


Matthew Wycliffe is rock solid as the straight-talking rockabilly guitar maestro Carl Perkins while Martin Kaye is mad as snake as he nails Jerry Lee Lewis' volatile mixture of undiluted ego and musical virtuosity.

Robbie Durham is warmly engaging as Johnny Cash and his rich voice captures the tortured emotion lurking beneath Cash's laconic ballads.

Ross William Wild avoids the pitfalls of Elvis impersonations and reveals the vulnerability of the shy kid who felt incapable of resisting the cynical manipulations of Colonel Tom Parker.

Katie Ray brings an alluring female energy to the mix and holding it all together Jason Donovan embodies the fiercely independent vision of maverick producer Sam Phillips.

The song selection credits the diverse streams that flow into rock-n-roll: There's a respectful cover of Chuck Berry's Brown Eyed Handsome Man, gems from the American country-folk canon and gospel standards that summon the unhinged vitality of a camp-town revival meeting.

The hit-filled finale ensures there is a whole lotta shakin' goin' on.

What: Million Dollar Quartet
Where & When: The Civic to June 18
Reviewer: Paul Simei-Barton