Tuesday, 12 June 2018

This Is Elvis: A New Musical - The Palace Theatre, Manchester.

'This Is Elvis' is probably the best title possible for this show. Fans of recreations and tribute acts of Elvis will love this show, but if it is the second, almost missed, part of the title, 'A New Musical' which interests you, then forget it. A musical it isn't. There is only one song  [a close-harmony male chorus of 'Are You Lonesome Tonight'] not sung by Elvis or with him singing at least part, and the dialogue used in this evening's show could have been written on the back of a postage stamp!

The start, I have to admit, showed promise, even if I did know that I was in for yet another 'juke-box' musical. We were told that we were in Burbank, USA, on the 27th June 1968 for the NBC TV filming of Elvis's 'Comeback Special'. We were then, rather than watching a little of this recording and moving on with the narrative, 'treated' to a long and over-indulgent sequence where Elvis sat down with some friends and played snippets of many different songs from his early years. Sadly, the musical never recovers from this. 

The story went on a little to show Elvis's desire to return to touring and performing live and breaking away from his Hollywood film contract. It showed him accepting a contract by his manager to play a season at The International Hotel in Las Vegas, and finally, in the whole of the second act not one word of dialogue was spoken; instead we sat through what I am assuming (or at least hoping) was a faithful recreation of his first Las Vegas concert, just one year later in 1969. 20 hits back to back and the curtain falls.

For Elvis fans - especially those who were fond of him in his post-film, pre-chubby and drug-addicted era - will not be disappointed. They will be dancing in the aisles and loving Steve Michaels as he seems to have seamlessly metamorphosed into Mr. Presley with ease and skill. But if it is depth and insight or even a storyline and a few other cast members being given the chance to shine a little that you are looking for, then it's best you stay away.

The musical boasts a cast of 13 not including Presley, and these talented performers play the few cameo roles necessary to get us from A to B, as well as play all the music live on stage and deliver the backing vocals to all the songs. The set, a constant 'stage on a stage' affair which looked very 'psychedelic sixties' with different coloured lights shining through the panels worked, but this evening we were experiencing a couple of technical hitches which necessitated a stage crew member walking on stage a couple of times and we had a constant flashing and flickering light behind Elvis as he tried to deliver one of the more heartfelt and emotional parts of his show. Hopefully these will now have been rectified.

Musical it certainly isn't, but a more or less solid two hour concert of songs - a few of which I did not recognise - sang by a talented, and surely by the end of the evening exhausted, faithful re-creator of The King Of Rock 'N' Roll, Steve Michaels.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 11/6/18

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