Last night we had a night out with friends, Japanese restaurant then the Playhouse to see a musical about Elvis. Now I have to say right from the start that although I recognise what an iconic figure Elvis was in the history of music, and I understand he was an unbelievable and charismatic singer and performer, I am not actually a fan… However, I knew we would have a great evening – and indeed we did.
The show is called This Is Elvis and it’s story is of the years between Elvis’s first come back TV show in 1968 after nine years of being in the army and then movie making (films which became worse and worse, and his popularity declining) and his performance in Las Vegas at the International Hotel . This show did not tell the whole of the Elvis story as in others where different actors played him at different times in his life; this just charted that time between his comeback and Las Vegas. This meant it worked very well as a piece of theatre, but it did mean that some people were disappointed because there were none of his songs from after that time.
The show was about the music – but it also gave a narrative – Elvis’s loss of confidence in performing live, the manipulations of the evil “Colonel” Parker, the support from his friends, the tensions in his marriage, and his performance. The first half was background – with songs and music too of course, the second was a recreation of the Las Vegas show. I have been to loads of gigs, and this was a gig (on a massive scale) within a show!
The performances of all the cast were stunning, but the obvious star of the show had to be Steve Michaels (formerly Stephen Michael Kabakos) He was amazing – w hat talent, what energy, how well he carried the rôle! A sensational performance. The other actors/musicians were also stunningly good – I found myself watching them as much as ‘Elvis’! There was the band which consisted of about five guitars, two trumpets, trombone/flute, keyboard, drums, and they also doubled as the Jordanaires, a gospel group who became Elvis’s first backing group; there was an amazing trio of women who played the part of the also amazing Sweet Inspirations who supported Elvis.
This was definitely a celebration of Elvis, his life, his music, his performances, but it also touched on the dark sides of his life – the still-birth of his twin, his lifelong feeling of bereavement of his mother, his drug dependency, but most of all how he felt trapped by everything – he couldn’t escape, he couldn’t be himself. There was one scene which perfectly captured this, when he was singing ‘Suspicious Minds’ – where the lyric came to the fore:
I’m caught in a trap I can’t walk out… Why can’t you see what you’re doing to me… You can’t see the tears are real, I’m crying – yes, I’m crying…
This was my lasting impression of the whole show – and an insight into the tragedy that was Elvis, the pathos, the way his talent was manipulated b those around him. His genius and success led only to despair played against the background of sensational music.
If you get the chance to see the show – on this tour, the fiftieth anniversary since Elvis’s come-back, and playing at Wimbledon, Birmingham, Stoke, Malvern, Cardiff, Liverpool, Woking, Leeds, Manchester, Sunderland, Darlington, Brighton, Bristol and Torquay. then don’t miss your chance to catch this ‘brilliant’ musical before Elvis has left the building!
Here are a couple of interesting articles: