Theatrical producer and director Bill Kenwright has crafted a show to celebrate the music of the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Elvis Presley in a new musical This Is Elvis, which focuses on his ’68 Comeback Special in his Las Vegas residency.
Whizzing through a catalog of 34 songs, this production is an electrifying tribute to one of the greatest entertainers of all time. The stage is lit with impressive rock-gig lighting by Nick Richings, showing the incredible band that sits centre stage. They are one of the best I’ve ever heard in recreating Presley’s timeless hits, along with the glorious backing vocals of the cast, some of whom play instruments.
But it goes without saying; the star of the show is indeed Elvis Presley himself - international tribute artist Steve Michaels. He has the looks, he has the voice, he has the moves, but what is amazing is the energy that Michaels holds in his performance as the King. It seemed as if most people around me even believed they were watching the real Elvis, at times myself included. The other surprising element of his performance is his emotive ability to convey Presley’s self-conscious and anxious personality in Act One. But Michaels is as utterly phenomenal as the real thing. How his vocal chords can sustain singing every night in the way that he does is mind-blowing.
The production however really is a show of two halves. The first act attempts to fit in the label of being a new musical with a narrative and book by co-producer Laurie Mansfield and Phillip Norman, while the second half is simply just a recreation of the ’68 Comeback Special gig. I was hoping to have learned more about the man himself through the storytelling, but it seems this production would have some re-tooling to do if it were to live up to other great biopic musicals such as Jersey Boys or The REP’s One Love: The Bob Marley Musical.
But that point aside, what this show has in common with those examples is the love for the music and for the artist. Also it is clearly a crowd-pleaser. The audience were quick to shout, cheer, get up on their feet, dancing along to the many hits being belted out by Michaels such as Hound Dog, All Shook Up, Suspicious Minds and Burning Love, to name but a few.
I guess, as a woman shouted at one point stopping the show; Elvis really is in the building.
This Is Elvis runs at the New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham until Saturday 24th March.
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