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REVIEW: This Is Elvis at Sunderland Empire

Elvis Is King In Sunderland

This Is Elvis
Sunderland Empire
Until Saturday 23 June 2018

Bill Kenwright brings the new musical This Is Elvis, with Steve Michaels as Elvis, to the Empire this week.

Starting with the build up to the June 1968 NBC comeback special, the show combines the background narrative surrounding the iconic shows, alongside his big hits. The show finishes with Elvis performing on opening night at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.

The doubt about live shows and loss of confidence in the performer, after 15 years of making movies, is very much in evidence. As are his battles with his manager Colonel Parker. But the big hit with this show are the classic songs. The 68 special covers a number of the songs and interactions during the intimate segment. The large band, complete with brass section and backing singers make easy work of the rock ‘n’ roll classics like Heartbreak Hotel and Hound Dog.

But what about Elvis himself? As the lady behind me exclaimed as Steve Michaels first entered the stage " Eee! He looks just like him!" He interpretation of the Elvis back catalogue was fine too.

The dialogue between live sets is superficial at times. Buddies Charlie (Mark Pearce) and Joe (Reuven Gershon) help provide the exposition in the first act. But once the context is set it is time for the main event: act 2.

Just like Jersey Boys, the show goes into full tribute concert mode in act two.  Also Sprach Zarathustra builds up the atmosphere at the end of the interval. It is July ‘69 and Elvis is in Vegas.

The 14 talented musicians work their way through the Vegas set. I loved the drumming, thanks to Billy Stookes fine style. Steve Michaels works hard as the front man and the audience played their part screaming at his moves and applauding appreciatively as each song began. We get outstanding renditions of Viva Las Vegas, Blue Suede Shoes, Are You Lonesome Tonight, Always On My Mind, The Wonder Of You, Suspicious Minds and Jailhouse Rock amongst many others.

Elvis impersonators may be 10 a penny but Steve Michaels was extremely impressive both in looks, voice and singing style.

It was the final section that probably worked best for most of the audience.  Elvis, it seems, is still doing good business around these parts.

It may be 41 years since Elvis died but his songs still work today. If you like Mr Presley then you should check this show out. We are glad we did.

Review by Stephen Oliver.
Photos: Pamela Raith Photography

Tickets available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022* or from our affiliates ATG Tickets: *calls cost up to 7p per minute plus standard network charges. Booking and transaction fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.

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