08:31PM, Thursday 25 January 2018
“Is my career in the toilet?”
Elvis’s plaintive question might be uncomfortable for fans to hear but Bill Kenwright’s latest production shows the vulnerable side of The King of Rock’n’Roll.
Much more than a tribute show, This Is Elvis is set in the Sixties and the times they are a-changin’ for the singer.
Poised to perform in his first live TV show on an NBC special, he’s racked with self-doubt . Chatting with his band backstage, he’s insecure and edgy – avoiding calls from wife Priscilla, ducking away from his manager ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker, and feeling out of touch with modern music audiences who go wild only ‘if you’ve got a Liverpool accent’.
Stephen Michaels looks the part of Presley and certainly sounds like him to, armed with a soft Southern accent in the acting vignettes and a powerful pair of lungs for the song.
Backed by 10 talented musicians and three great backing singers, soon the 14 musicians are raising the roof in at NBC in what would come to be known as The ’68 Comeback Special’.
Elvis classics like Heartbreak Hotel and Love Me Tender had the Windsor audience swaying in their seats, though no one was on their feet – yet.
The story of Elvis’s extraordinary upbringing ‘since he was an itty bitty boy’ unfolded, the loss of his twin brother, rise to fame and his pain over his mother’s death. Michaels brought out the sadness and confusion of the man who lived as both a pauper and The King.
I never knew that the singer stood up for civil rights, insisting that his trio The Sweet Inspirations, who were black, should play with him in Vegas.
"Music doesn’t care if you’re black or white, north or south, rich or poor…”
The act ends with a medley of songs of those big Sixties artists we see Elvis referencing in the first scene: “Simon and Garfunkel? Sounds like a pair of lawyers.”
There’s a searing Bridge Over Troubled Water, a funky version of The Beatles’ Get Back and stunning gospel in Oh Happy Day.
The second act sees Elvis at the International Hotel and ready to Viva Las Vegas if it kills him. The hits come thick and fast: In The Ghetto, Blue Suede Shoes, Always on My Mind, King Creole… the audience was jumping like catfish on a pole.
Everyone was on their feet by the end, all thoughts of Elvis’s blue moments blown away.
I didn’t know whether this would be another jukebox musical but I came away intrigued and inspired by Elvis Aron Presley. Long Live the King.
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