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Priceless: Million Dollar Quartet to make its India debut at Mumbai’s NCPA

The Million Dollar Quartet hits the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre at Mumbai’s National Centre for the Performing Arts on December 13

mumbai Updated: Dec 06, 2017 20:27 IST
Anubhuti Matta
Anubhuti Matta
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Million Dollar Quartet,NCPA
The quartet during their UK tour.(Darren Bell)

They call it the greatest night in the history of rock-n-roll. On December 4, 1956, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins came together to jam at the Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.

They had all turned up at the studio for different reasons — to record, to listen in to a recording, to meet an executive — and when they began to play together, casually and informally, an engineer hit ‘record’.

That accidental gig became known as the Million Dollar Quartet. Fifty years later, the story took to the stage, to be rendered as a musical.

Now, theatre director Ian Talbot is bringing the legendary meeting to life in India for the first time.

His staging of Million Dollar Quartet hits the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre at Mumbai’s National Centre for the Performing Arts on December 13.

It’s written by Grammy award-winning Colin Escott and stage and film director Floyd Mutrux. The actors sing more than 20 songs, some from that featured in that afternoon in 1956.

The playlist includes Blue Suede Shoes (first recorded by Perkins), Hound Dog (made most famous by Presley), Great Balls of Fire (Lewis) and I Walk the Line (Cash) as the play tells the stories of the musicians’ early careers just before and just after the gig.

“The challenge comes from wanting to emulate but not impersonate, because they’re real people and the audience knows of them so well,” says Martin Kaye, a pianist and singer who plays Lewis. “I watched a lot of videos, read the biography — but we have to bring ourselves into it too; that’s why we were cast in the role.”

For actor Robbie Durham, who plays Cash, it’s all the places the play has travelled — across the UK and New Zealand — that has been most memorable.

“I like to see how different audiences take to it,” he says. “In New Zealand, we also bungee-jumped and skydived and I can’t wait to see what India has to offer. I know that we are going to offer — a trip down memory lane in a funny and poignant manner that is set to get you dancing.”

What: Million Dollar Quartet

When: December 13 to 24, three shows a day

Where: National Centre for the Performing Arts, Nariman Point

Tickets are available online; prices start at Rs 500