This Is Elvis: Viva Las Vegas
Bowman, Andy Pelos, James Thurston, Ruth Aguilera, Tom Clare, Natasha
Cox, Gary Skelton, Simone Mistry-Palmer
THIS IS ELVIS
No small task,
then, to restage one of the world's most talked about comebacks inside
of two hours and still keep the atmosphere as alive today as it was
thirty-eight years ago. Does This Is Elvis succeed? Oh
yes, and by some distance, thanks to the performance of its star, Simon
Bowman, and the troupe of performers selected to play The King's backing
Split into two sections, the first half recounts how Presley had become disillusioned with Hollywood and wanted to get back on the road and "back to his roots", performing across the USA.
Of course, Colonel Tom Parker knew when he had struck gold and, relinquishing his filming obligations, arranged for Elvis to play at the International Hotel Showroom in Las Vegas before a sell out audience.
Unfortunately for Presley, however, the audience
was not the only sell out, as Parker got himself hamstrung with gambling
debts that only continued appearances by his protégé could
guarantee being paid off. Elvis never left the building, or the
country, again and the pressure told on his domestic and personal lives,
Bowman is fantastic. The longer the show progressed,
the man who made his mark in Miss Saigon as the original "Chris"
and then beside Martin Shaw as the young Elvis in Lonesome
Tonight, had the audience eating out of his hand as though he were
a real second coming. In addition, the slick guitar playing of Nick
Radcliffe, laying the roles of Scotty Moore and James Burton, was truly
sensational, as was the percussion, drums and brass of the band.
Furthermore, the close harmony singing and sheer
power of Mistry-Palmer, Cox and Aguilera deserve special credit for
being able to match Bowman for power, without ever drowning the voice
of the main man out.
One or two of the dialogue lines were, it has to
be said, a little hammy. Elvis reading reviews to his dead "Momma"
at Graceland and the initial reference to Lisa Marie being particularly
clumsy, thoughnone of this took away from the professionalism of the
cast. These quibbles aside, the show sparkled from first to last like
so many rhinestones caught in a laser beam of talent.
Of course, the real stars were the songs and they
were all - well, nearly all - here; Guitar Man, All Shook
Up, Hound Dog, That's All Right Mama, Heartbreak
Hotel and One Night seared through the first half, ably accompanied
by classic covers such as The Bee Gee's Words and Simon &
Garfunkle's Bridge Over Troubled Water, all of which were sung
during the faux-rehearsals for the main event.
And what an event!
From the opening bars of Also Sprach Zarathustra
to the final strains of Jailhouse Rock, Bowman carried the spirit
of a legend on his back as though it were paper. His version of Suspicious
Minds rivalled that of the master, American Trilogy brought
a lump to the throat - especially as it started with Elvis standing
transfixed beneath a crystal spotlight giving him the candescence of
a museum piece - and Big Hunk O' Love had the sell out audience
on their feet and begging for more.
At last, and all too soon, the message that "Elvis
has left the building" boomed from the theatre speakers and
the crowd made their way home, breathless.
Elvis may well have been a phenomenon when
he was alive but, now that he's gone, this show deserves to be a phenomenal
success, if only as a tribute to The King's undoubted Rock 'n' Roll
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Viva Las Vegas' presented by Bill Kenwright & Laurie Mansfield?
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Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit. - Chris High 2003.
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