Jason helps to walk the line

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As a pop star and lead in many a West End and national touring show, it’s a little surprising to hear that Jason Donovan won’t be singing in his latest role in a musical.

In the first-ever UK tour of Million Dollar Quartet, Jason plays Sam Phillips, the legendary record producer who owned Sun Records, and was instrumental in the birth of rock’n’roll as we know it.

The show is inspired by the true story of the famed recording session where Phillips brought together Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley and it features more than 20 blistering hits, including Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, I Walk The Line and Great Balls of Fire.

But Jason will be leaving the singing to his co-stars.

‘I’ve been keen to do some acting,’ he explains, ‘and I think this is a perfect bridge for me. It has me just acting, and yet it’s a musical.

‘Sam Phillips had a studio which was basically the stable for people like Elvis, and Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, he was the founder of rock’n’roll music in the ’50s. It’s a great story how these guys come together for one night and he deals with their egos and tries to run his business and keep all that buoyant as well.

‘It is a great part and a great story and a lot of these, what people term “jukebox musicals”, are only good when the story is good.

‘Hopefully, the one thing I have got right in my career is my live work, I’ve built up a reputation from the shows I’ve done of making sure that when people come to see me that I’ve picked a show that is quality, so people spending the money know that they’re getting a good show from Jason Donovan, or a show that I think is good – so this is one of those!’

Wasn’t he tempted to bag one of the songs for himself?

‘I’ve got enough to do with the dialogue that I have. I love singing but it requires another level of discipline. Not that I’m not disciplined, but sometimes it’s just nice to switch that off and concentrate on something else.

‘And they did ask me to sing at the end, but then I’m slightly crossing over into “Jason Donovan” territory, so I said no, I want to play a character and not be Captain Celebrity.’