This is Elvis – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre

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By Ginger Bailey, June 2018

An eventful evening ahead approached, I thought, as I watched the other audience members enter The Grand. Some were dressed in matching pink outfits; some had their glad rags on; some looked like grandmothers, daughters and granddaughters (minus the great grandchildren), everyone out looking like they were ready to celebrate an evening with the one and only Elvis Presley.

Elvis, in this instance, played by the award winning tribute artist Steve Michaels, is scarily representative of the King – and it soon feels like we are indeed watching the man himself, swooning and shaking his way around the stage. He is supported by a talented cast of musicians and singers, leading to some wonderful numbers and most of the audience out of their seats.

The concept of This is Elvis is straight forward enough: In Act 1 we see him perform in the NBC Studios, at his so-called comeback show. Performing such hits as ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and ‘Hound Dog’, ending with the heart-warming ‘Love Me Tender’, a song I was, up until this point, totally indifferent to – but seeing Michaels perform it on stage it nearly brought a tear to my eye. The set-up was clever, making us feel that we were the audience members of the live recording of the television show.

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“Beautiful voices”

The next scene is set in Graceland where we see Elvis with his buddies, discussing his future and his frustrations with his manager – the to-be-feared Colonel Tom Parker – over the route his career had taken with the numerous movies he filmed and was contracted to film. It ends with Elvis asserting himself to the infamous Colonel and his wife via the cleverly brought on stage telephone – who needs wires on stage?

Despite Elvis insisting that he would never do Vegas, the next scene shows him at the International Hotel, in his hotel suite, before moving swiftly on to a rehearsal room a few hours before he is due to go on stage for the first time.

The second act is set entirely in the showroom of the International Hotel, Las Vegas. It feels as though we are in the concert watching him and his bands and the superb Jordanaires, a trio of female singers with beautiful voices who a gospel element to some of the songs.

I am enjoying myself and my plus one is having a good old time too,. We are both up dancing and singing and some of my fellow reviewers are up too – indeed, the ones that aren’t are struggling to see the stage, since most of the audience are out of their seats.

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“Utterly impressed”

Oh yes, the audience are having fun. Perhaps a little too much fun, and some are certainly ‘lively’. A special shout out to the staff at the Grand for dealing with unruly audience members and alerting them to the fact that they cannot film the show! Tut tut, this isn’t a concert. But maybe they could be forgiven for thinking it is.

Elvis has too many hits, but this show tried to fit them in, everything from ‘Viva Las Vegas’ to ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’, to ‘Suspicious Minds’. The King works the audience, encouraging us up for a number of songs, then suggesting we sit back down so that he can catch his breath.

He ends with ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and we are all back up to sing and dance along. Even the elderly lady behind me gets up, supported by her family, to sway along. I am utterly impressed with the singing of all involved and Michaels’s moves. His energy levels remain consistent throughout and, yes, it is as though I am listening to Elvis himself.

Interestingly and appropriately, when the show ends, the curtain comes up and the lights go on there’s no applause for the actors themselves. We are all applauding Elvis and his band, who leaving us wanting more. But regrettably Elvis has, indeed, left the building.

images: Pamela Raith Photography


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