This Is Elvis – Bord Gais Theatre – Review
3 Jul 2018 – 7 Jul 2018
The year is 1968 and Elvis is 33 years old. In the previous 12 month period, Elvis has released 8 singles and only two of them have charted, the highest being number 28. Presley has worked on a series of formulaic films and the public have grown bored with them. Has the King seen better days? Is Elvis destined to disappear from the limelight like so many before him? His agent, Colonel Tom Parker, decides on a new approach. He negotiates a deal with NBC to film a comeback special on TV. It was recorded in late June in Burbank, California and the rest, as they say, is history!
This production celebrates the 50th anniversary of the TV special, which inspired the play. Steve Michaels plays Elvis and it is billed as his first time performing in the UK or Ireland. He is a well known Elvis impersonator who hails from Ontario, Canada. While no one will ever replicate the King, Michaels does an admirable job. His vocals are impressive and he does look quite like Presley. However, he doesn’t move like Elvis, lacking the swagger of the original.
This is a Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield production. Kenwright made his name with Blood Brothers, among others, and has a number of musical productions touring at any one time. His productions are quite lavish affairs, and this production spares no expense with 14 musicians on stage. The set recreates the NBC studios and later the Las Vegas stage, with a brief trip to Graceland in between!
While it is billed as a musical, there is very little actual story to it. In the first act, there are mentions of Elvis’ strained relationship with his wife and also his drug use but they are largely glossed over. The story of his life is used to tie together the songs which come in rapid succession. In the second act, the story line is dropped entirely in favour of a concert, with a recreation of his first night performing in Las Vegas. During this set, we get 21 songs, including favourites such as Blue Suede Shoes, In the Ghetto and Suspicious Minds. The band are impressive throughout with vocal harmonies and backing singers adding to the mix.
If you’re looking for the story of Elvis’ life, you won’t get it here. What you do get are the hits! The story of the play feels a little forced and could have been removed entirely. It’s definitely more of a concert experience than it is musical theatre. The two main concert sequences are the highlights. After the interval, the audience is moved in time and place, arriving in the International Hotel in Vegas in 1969 to see the King at the height of his powers. If you squint your eyes, it could almost be the real thing!