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Review: Elvis: A Musical Revolution at HOTA

Review by Yasmin Elahi

Gold Coast’s Home of the Arts welcomed the premiere production of ‘Elvis: A Musical Revolution’. This musical follows Elvis from a small child in Tupelo through his rise to fame. Incorporating over 40 of Elvis’ greatest hits, the show promises to be a dynamic night at the theatre.

Director Alister Smith’s blocking was creative and high energy. Scene changes were swift and smooth and the feel of the show was polished and Broadway-esque. The staging of the hospital/funeral scene at the end of Act One was poignant and stirring. Smith clearly put a lot of thought into the blocking of this show and the result was a streamlined and very professional production.

Choreographer Michael Ralph pumped up the liveliness on the choreography. The ensemble danced with vigor and precision. Unfortunately at times, the choreography overshadowed the action on stage and at times the high levels of energy felt out of place, disrupting the narrative flow of the show.

Set design by Dan Potra was spectacular. The use of moving walls, flies and cleverly curated set pieces enabled multiple locations to be portrayed on stage in quick succession. A particularly clever use of the set was when Elvis was performing to larger and larger audiences at the beginning of his rise to fame. By slightly lifting the marquee and opening up the walls, this visually represented the growth in Elvis’ popularity. The recording studio was also very cleverly designed, as well as the record shop. The use of projections were cleverly incorporated and enhanced the action on stage.

Lighting design by Declan O’Neill perfectly complemented the set. Lighting was striking and enhanced the drama and spectacle of the show. The huge illuminated ‘Elvis’ sign, an iconic feature of Elvis’ real comeback tour, greeted audiences upon their arrival into the theatre. Execution of the lighting design was flawless as well.

Noni McCallum was a caring and maternal Gladys Presley. Portraying Elvis’ mother, she vocally excelled and her scenes where soul stirring.

Ian Stenlake was a standout as Colonel Parker. His accent, characterisation and stage presence really encapsulated the personality of the real Colonel Parker. His dynamic with Elvis and others with whom he was trying to cut deals was believable. Stenlake’s performance was electric.

Annie Chiswell was a pensive Priscilla. Vocally, she conveyed a lot of feeling and soul.

Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of this musical is that the role of Priscilla is very minimised. It would have been nice to see Chiswell given more of an opportunity to showcase her characterisation as Priscilla. With the limited dialogue she was given, she did well.

Kirby Burgess was exceptional as Ann Margaret. She oozed confidence and sex appeal and was a very close match to the real Ann Margaret. Her dance performance was captivating and her vocals riveting. A real triple threat, Burgess stole the stage and her chemistry and flirtiness with Elvis was lifelike. A standout performance by Burgess.

Though there is no doubt Mallet is a talented vocalist and performer, he missed the mark in personifying Elvis. Vocally and physically, he did not embody the iconic perfomer. Instead, his performance felt cartoonish and a caricature of Elvis, rather than a sincere interpretation. Vocally, he did not sound like Elvis and his slurring of lines came across more like he’d had a stroke. The highlight of Mallet’s performance was his rendition of ‘Love Me Tender’ which he sang to baby Lisa-Marie. The stillness and quiet emotion of this scene revealed a softer, more earnest side of Mallet’s performance that was quite stirring and would have been nice to see in other scenes, rather than the hostile and rather aggressive performance that was delivered. Vocally, this number sounded the most similar to Elvis, though still not exact.

Though an actor brings their own take on any role they are performing, for something as iconic as Elvis, audiences have a certain expectation that they will be seeing a competent impersonator. Mallet’s performance was a huge let down in this show and one that unfortunately was insurmountable. Though the show was incredibly professional and the cast and crew performed flawlessly and without one apparent mistake, this production left audiences unfulfilled. If one was anticipating on seeing a faithful impersonation of Elvis Presley, this show is not for you. However, for the mere spectacle and incredible set and lighting design it may be worth seeing this production, though tickets are rather pricey.

Image Supplied


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