PETER Duncan, the former Blue Peter and Duncan Dares presenter, returns to the York Theatre Royal stage to lead the company in the first week of the autumn tour of Million Dollar Quartet from Tuesday to Saturday.

Duncan, who appeared in The Original Theatre Company's Birdsong in March 2014, will join actor-musicians Rhys Whitfield, Martin Kaye, Robbie Durham and Matt Wycliffe, who play Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins respectively to his Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records and Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. Alongside them will be Katie Ray, playing Elvis's girlfriend Dyanne.

Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux's musical tells the story of the 1956 recording session that brought together four recording stars, Presley, Lewis, Cash and Perkins, for the first and only time in a show that features more than 20 rock’n’roll hits such as Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, I Walk The Line and Great Balls.

Duncan will be reprising the role of Sam Phillips, having played the legendary record producer on the five-week first leg of the British tour. "I'm going from tragedy to a jukebox musical at the Theatre Royal," he says, recalling his role in Sebastian Faulks's First World War story Birdsong. "Well, I say it's a jukebox musical but Million Dollar Quartet is a good story, all about Sam Phillips and those great musicians he worked with, and it's sort of a battle between him and the songs for dominance in the show!

"Interestingly, Phillips may not have been quite as squeaky clean as the show suggests, but he was a grafter who enjoyed discovering new talent and sharing those talents with the world. The music business is a difficult business to work in but it seems he was a good businessman who took risks with their careers so successfully, they all went to make a million."

York Press:

The Million Dollar Quartet: Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash

The tale of the Million Dollar Quartet has been told before in an American television series and Leonardo Dicaprio is to play Phillips in an upcoming biopic co-produced by DiCaprio and Mick Jagger, but Duncan cuts out any peripheral vision to concentrate on the show in hand. "Doing a piece like this, you have to rely on how the script depicts Phillips, rather than further research," he says.

Jason Donovan and Spandau Ballet's Martin Kemp also will be playing Sam Phillips on various dates on the tour. "Jason and Martin are bigger names than me, and it's nice to have pop stars doing this show, but it's equally nice being an actor doing it," says Duncan.

"It's a well constructed, well balanced show where the audience might not be expecting a story, but the way Ian Talbot has directed it, it's as much a play as a musical with musicians playing at a session together."

Who is Duncan's favourite: Presley, Lewis, Cash or Perkins? "I got well into Johnny Cash in his late days, doing his American Recordings. Before that I was more into Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen; I was fascinated by their faith, their devotion," he says.

"If I had to pick, the classic rock'n'roll sound was Jerry Lee Lewis. Carl Perkins was a sharecropper with no shoes, which is why he wrote Blue Suede Shoes; Johnny Cash wanted to sing gospel; Elvis wanted to be Dean Martin, but Jerry Lee Lewis was the real thing. Crazy! Less respectful of their po-faced religious backgrounds."

Million Dollar Quartet runs at York Theatre Royal from September 19 to 23, 7.30pm plus 2pm, Thursday, and 2.30pm, Saturday. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

Did you know?

Martin Kaye has played Jerry Lee Lewis more than 2,000 times, on the first North American tour of Million Dollar Quartet for 18 months, in the Las Vegas production at Harrah’s and now on two legs of the British tour.