I would never call myself a fan of Elvis Presley.
As a child I was aware of his music through the many Elvis films that appeared on our television screens, usually as part of the Sunday matinee season. (These blogs are like a stick of rock, always have Sunday matinee running through them!)
As a teenager, I thought Elvis and his music was too old fashioned for a tartan clad, platform wearing, glam rocker girl.
When I met my husband, he reintroduced me to the music of Elvis and I began to appreciate the vocal talent and the showmanship of the “king”.
I would still not class myself as an Elvis fan. The scars of out of tune renditions of an American trilogy sung on free and easy nights (the closest thing we had to karaoke in the 1970s) in the lounges of back street pubs, run very deep. Everyone thought they were Elvis after a few pints of Banks bitter.
When I took my seat for the touring production of This is Elvis, at The New Alexandra Theatre, the ghosts of the many cheesy Elvis impersonators I have seen in various locations entered the auditorium with me.
Bill Kenwright’s This is Elvis, tells the story of a critical time in Presley’s life; after seven years of making low budget movies, he described his singing career as being “down the toilet”.
This production is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the ’68 comeback special as it is now known. Originally planned as a Christmas show by NBC and Colonel Tom Parker, producer Bob Finkel had other ideas. Finkel bought in director Steve Binder to update Presley’s sound to make him relevant to a younger audience. Due to Binder’s intervention, the live hour-long broadcast drew a record breaking number of viewers relaunching Elvis’s career. The following year Presley debuted at the International Hotel Las Vegas, where he established himself as the King of rock and roll.
Canadian Steve Michaels who has won awards as an international tribute artist is cast in the lead role of Elvis. Michaels’ physical resemblance to Presley is uncanny, his voice is remarkable, I had to keep reminding myself that it was not Elvis up there on the stage. This is Elvis is not a tribute concert – what makes this a rounded musical theatre performance is Michaels’ acting ability. He captures the vulnerability of Presley. At times it is painful to watch as we witness Presley, who is mourning the death of his twin Jessie Garon and his mother Gladys, seek solace by abusing prescription drugs.
Colonel Tom Parker is not seen during this production, yet by use of clever dialogue his heavy presence is felt as the viewer learns of his manipulation of Elvis regarding the Vegas deal which allowed the colonel no credit limits in the hotel’s casino.
The second act is the opening night concert at the International Hotel Las Vegas.
“Sweet Inspirations” (Misha Malcolm, Katrina May, Chevone Stewart) have excellent voices and combine beautifully together to create strong vocal harmonies that are a joy to listen to.
The viewer feels part of the Vegas audience as Michaels, clad now in the familiar high collared white jumpsuit, sings hit after hit, supported by a band of accomplished musicians. Lead guitarist Niall Kerrigan is very skilful and he and Michaels have excellent stage chemistry.
Highlight song of the show for me was Bridge over troubled water, where Michaels voice combined perfectly with the musicians and backing vocals of the Sweet Inspirations to create a beautiful sound that deserved the rapturous response from the audience.
The atmosphere was electric as the audience were swept along by the energy of Michaels (or Elvis – I couldn’t tell anymore) as they clapped, danced and sang along to the familiar songs.
This production is a must for anyone who enjoys the music of Elvis sung by a world class performer.
As for me, I must admit I was a little sad when Elvis left the building.
This is Elvis is also featured on the Theatretastic Podcast
Theatretastic rating 4/5:
We say: “A spectacular Elvis show with a true star at the heart. Steve Michaels proves that Elvis never left the building!”
- Before watching This is Elvis our pre-theatre choice was Red Peppers in the Mailbox