Elvis:A Musical Revolution

The King is dead: Long Live the King.

Elvis Presley was known as the King of Rock’n’ Roll and his legend lives on in Elvis: A Musical Revolution. It is a wonderful and moving tribute to a singer who experienced the highs and lows of fame; who brought new life to popular music, and whose memory is still very much alive for so many people.

This musical succeeds on a number of fronts. There are the twin narratives of the life and career of Elvis seen clearly against the society in which he grew up, the racial tensions, and the musical rivalries.  Elvis, with Rock ’n’ Roll came on the scene at an opportune time, when he was enthusiastically accepted by young people. With his music came a brand new and very exciting dance style, all of which led to him becoming a rock’n’roll superstar. The dancers were one of the best parts of the show. Incredibly skilful and imaginative, they were like the pieces of fabric that hold a patchwork quilt together, bringing all together into a whole.

On opening night Elvis, as a child, was played by Nemanja Illic, all of nine years old, who could dance like a demon and hold his own as a singer. He portrayed the young Elvis as a sensitive, thoughtful  child who loved music. Had Elvis confined his career to local success, performing with Blue Moon Boys, and married Dixie,  played with warmth and charm by Sienna Embrey, he may not have been so ridiculously rich and famous, but he might have had a far happier life. Annie Chiswell, in her sympathetic portrayal of Priscilla, certainly learned that marriage to a rock star was no easy road.

Musicals are always entertaining but great musicals need meat as well as chocolate. Amongst the hype, excitement and dazzle of Elvis performing there are quiet scenes, such as Elvis with his mother (Noni McCallum) the gospel church, young Elvis playing the blues with two Black American musicians, and Elvis, toward the end of his life, singing to his baby daughter Lisa Marie. These scenes, together with the dance sequences serve to present a totally satisfying production.  

David Venn has assembled a fantastic cast of singers and dancers, beginning with  Rob Mallett who plays Elvis. He is the lynchpin of the production and he rises to that challenge with  tremendous energy, a fine voice and empathy. The songs are all the well known favourites and some less well known. The audience whooped and clapped, joined in and had a ball a whenever Rob sang. 

As ‘nasty’ Elvis, as the pressures build up, he conveys the downside of fame.  Col. Parker, played by Ian Stenlake while instrumental in guiding Elvis to phenomenal success proved to be a hard task master anxious to keep the money rolling in.

We know that Elvis came to an unhappy end. Rob Mallett did not deteriorate before our eyes,  although he was able to show the different stages of the singer’s life and mind set. Towards  the end of the musical there was a visual display of the real Elvis in his later years, which made it clear that he was not a healthy man. 

Go and see this show. It is a deeply moving, exhilarating, exuberant, thought provoking and spectacular show. In other words, it ticks all the boxes.

Her Majesty’s Theatre 

April 3- 21.

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