This Is Elvis?
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
It was 16th August 1977 when the late night newscaster announced: “Elvis is dead.” Me and my brother Paul were sharing the same bedroom and were in momentary shock. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll was no more.
He was just 42.
I can’t remember where I was for so many other life-changing events, but the fact that Elvis’ passing is so indelibly marked on my conscience, is testimony to the profound effect this global superstar had on so many lives.
So, it was with some trepidation that I went to Leeds Grand last night, not sure what to expect from This Is Elvis, billed as ‘ A New Musical’. Sadly, the words ‘new musical’ are bandied around more than a bragger’s contact book and have become as diluted as Oliver Twist’s gruel.
However, this was an interesting one. Certainly, the theatre was full of diehard Elvis fans and, as a show it was, perhaps, not for the Phantom and Les Mis crowd but, as a live theatre experience, it ticked all the boxes, certainly if you were a fan of the King.
This was a very accurate re-enactment of Elvis’ iconic 1968 NBC comeback TV special, and writer Philip Norman was careful to stick to Presley’s original dialogue, even though this led to a lack lustre and extremely static first half which, at times, felt a little cringeworthy.
Memphis’ very own had been locked into making Paramount movies for more than a decade and hadn’t done any live performing since the mid 50’s. In 1968 he was paralysed by fear, not only at the prospect of performing again, but by the fear of not being loved by a once adorning public.
With every passing minute This is Elvis turned into a live concert but, if you felt remotely let down by the first act, the second half more than made up for it as Steve Michaels, as Presley, got into his stride and wound the audience up tighter than a coiled spring.
“We lov yer Elvis,” went one cry. “Well thank you very much ma’am,” came the reply. “I can’t tell a word you just said but thank you anyway.” He was the consummate professional and clearly a man who has studied Elvis’ every nuance, move and gesture.
But where would he have been without his superb 10-piece musical backing, who were excellent, as well as the tirelessly perfect and incredibly hard working Sweet Inspirations, aka Misha Malcolm (Sylvia), Katrina May (Myrna) and Chevone Stewart as Estelle, faultless in all their choreographed moves.
Well before the end of the ‘show’ everyone was on their feet and the ‘concert’ was in full swing, although Michaels never came out of character and was careful not to shout out ‘we love you Leeds!’, maintaining the production’s integrity as a show. It was a wonderful concert experience, but it was still a show!
Many in the audience probably never saw Elvis perform – his dubious and controlling manager Colonel Tom Parker made sure his charge never performed in Europe – but last night is the closest that many will have come to experiencing the King in all his Las Vegas glory. A great concert, oops show……oh what the hell, it was great fun!
If you don’t go you’ll be in ‘Trouble’ and I’ll have to set the ‘Hound Dog’ on you.
So, ‘Don’t Be Cruel’, take your bopping granny and she will never cease to be amazed by ‘The Wonder of You’.
Just go and leave your critic’s head at home!
Until Saturday 9th June 2018
This Is Elvis?, 5th June 2018, 10:13 AM