“It’s one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready now go, cat, go” to see Elvis: A Musical Revolution.
This world premier at Sydney’s State Theatre with production from David Venn and direction by Alister Smith, takes it inventive and impressive Australian staging from the book by US based team of Sean Cercone and David Abbinanti.
Billed as a bio-musical, Elvis:A Musical Revolution is told through a series of vignettes based loosely on events and anecdotes about the King’s life, often in his own words, and accompanied by over 40 songs highlighting his career that ranged from hillbilly music, gospel, blues, rock and roll to show tunes.
For much of the show, Elvis (Rob Mallett) is on stage with his original band The Blue Moon Boys, while his mother Gladys and father Vernon, music producer Sam Philips and manager Colonel Tom Parker also accompany him on his rise to fame.
One character who proved to be a crowd favourite on the opening night was Kid Elvis, who also provides the touchstone to his life throughout the production.
Musical highlights, of which there are many, start with Kid Elvis and Gladys singing “Peace in the Valley”, performing it in perfect falsetto harmony that provides a moment of great tenderness.
Meeting the young Priscilla (Annie Chiswell) was a great turning point in Elvis’s life and their duet on “Are You Lonesome Tonight “displays great love and connectivity that will later be tested.
The second act brings the music of Elvis into maturity and the scene where Elvis struggles with a new band to shape “Hard-Headed Woman” illustrates how hard he worked to capture the performance.
During a flashback scene, two old bluesmen (Charly Williams and Joti Gore) appear with Kid Elvis to give him an appreciation of the blues form.
Elvis’ duet with Frank Sinatra (Ben Hall) on “Love Me Tender” and “Witchcraft” is an example of a great lead being supported by equally talented cast members.
The full company work with Mallett to bring the show to a glittering close with “Burning Love” and “Suspicious Minds”, moments worthy of the price of admission alone.
Throughout the show Mallett is comfortable in Elvis’s skin without resorting to mimicry and always in control vocally.
Across the production, the choreography (Michael Ralph) shines and makes the most of the set in its many guises and the size of the State Theatre’s large stage.
When Hollywood Elvis becomes smitten by Viva Las Vegas co-star Ann-Margaret (Kirby Burgess) it brings about a heart breaking confrontation from Priscilla.
It also gives Burgess her moments to shine in one of the most stunning dance routines seen on Sydney stages for years.
Under the musical direction of Daniel Puckey the songs have taken on a fresher and tougher R’nB feel and full credit to the band for their delivery.
The set (Dan Potra) starts of with an Elvis logo and keeps astounding with its many changes and adaptability enhanced by the creative lighting from Declan O’Neill.
Costume designer Isaac Lummis keeps the outfits simple while clearly delineating each phase of Elvis’ journey.
From its opening to its close at the rebirth of Elvis’ career, Elvis:A Musical Revolution’s performances and staging dazzles and astounds as it brings to life an iconic story that we all adore.