IT was the TV special that left the world all shook up. After a decade in the wilderness, the King of Rock ’n’ Roll was back. Elvis had entered the building, the big question was, could he still cut it?
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THE PLAYHOUSE, Greenside Place
Which is where the curtain rises on This Is Elvis, a musical charting Presley’s famous come-back and subsequent record-breaking Vegas season.
It’s 27 June 1968 and in an NBC studio in Burbank, TV producer Steve Binder is waiting for his reluctant star.
Enter award-winning tribute artiste Steve Michaels as Elvis, ready to rock his way through 40 of The King’s best loved songs.
As the sheer number of songs hints, the next two and a half hours are light in story.
Not so much a musical as a brace of staged concerts (Act One brings the TV special to life while Act Two finds Elvis entertaining at the International Hotel, Las Vegas), there’s not a huge amount of acting required.
What characters there are, the ensemble of 13 talented musicians and singers bring to life. However, there is never any doubt that this is Michaels’ show, a vehicle created to highlight his skills at channelling the spirit of Elvis.
In the first act it’s the black leather clad Presley of earlier years that holds the audience spell-bound, and if it takes Michaels a scene or so to warm up, telling anecdotes between songs to establish his character, by the time he slips into a medley of Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog and All Shook Up his inner Elvis has well and truly kicked in, curled lip and all, uh huh! .
It’s in the second act, now in the iconic white jumpsuit, that the Canadian really demonstrates why he has been hailed one of the world’s greatest Elvis tribute acts.
Bearing an eerie resemblance to the singer, he gives a power-house performance backed by a 10-piece band, which includes Reuven Gershon, who also puts in a strong turn as Joe Esposito.
Harmonious backing vocals come from Misha Malcolm, Katrina May and Chevone Stewart as The Sweet Inspirations.
Nick Richings’ simple but effective lighting captures the rich Technicolor hues of the era and Andy Walmsley’s clean set design also gives a nod to the sparkling lights of the Vegas strip.
That said, while Elvis may have died back in 1977, as long Michaels is around his spirit is alive and well, his legacy, in good hands.
The King is dead. Long live The King.
Runs ends Saturday