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"Elvis People - A New Play" (New World Stages, New York)

Published by: Luke Tudball on 24th Jun 2007 | View all blogs by Luke Tudball

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Don’t be cruel to a heart that’s true…” – Elvis Presley

 

Elvis Presley is perhaps one of the best-known musicians in recent history. His records have sold many millions of copies worldwide. According to American Demographics eighty-four percent of Americans say that their lives have been touched by Elvis in some way. Well. That’s good to know. I have to say that I have never really been a fan of ‘The King’ and this show does nothing to change that state of affairs.

 

Walking into the theatre at the New World Stage, “Elvis People” seems a little out of place before we even start. The NWS building is modern and rubberised, purpose-built from the shell of an old movie theatre – perhaps which showed some of Elvis’s movies years ago. Elvis is a relic of a bygone era, and the set highlights this with a various Elvis-style ‘suits’ hanging on the wings along with some cutesy dresses, and what maybe records covering the entire back wall. The juxtaposition of kitsch and modern does not do well here, and I found myself a little unsettled – especially as the rest of the set is glaring white. Things improved a little as the opening music kicked in, and some interesting video projections ensued on the record wall. However, the transitions dragged on and I found myself thinking, just get on with it already.

 

Henry Wishcamper’s production of Doug Grissom’s new play comes only two years after “All Shook Up”, another Elvis-based musical which did little more than vibrate the audience a little, and unfortunately also fails to really excite. The blame should not be levelled entirely at Wishcamper however, who does a serviceable job with the materials available. In the same vein, the ensemble of actors in this production have fine heritage and there are some interesting performances, but I feel that Grissom’s overly sentimental script and the tedious design does them no favours. There are some nice moments though, and I certainly found myself engaged by Ed Sala in the ‘Elvis in Vietnam’ sequence. Likewise, there are not many laughs in this show, but mention should be made of the ‘Robbery’ sequence which, though a little clunky, brightens a murky second act.

 

“Elvis People” will close on Saturday, June 23, 2007 after a very limited run at the New World Stages (barring a massive upturn in ticket sales) and I cannot help but think this is a good thing. Separately, the elements of the show promise much, but the vehicle they inhabit when united fails to live up to the hype. I certainly left not so much ‘all shook up’ but feeling more like I was checking into the ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.

 

“It’s rare when an artist’s talent can touch an entire generation of people. It’s even rarer when that same influence affects several generations.” - Dick Clark

 

Cast: Jordan Gelber, Jenny Maguire, David McCann, Nick Newell, Nell Page, Ed Sala

 

Director: Henry Wishcamper

 

For more information on the show, please visit: www.elvispeople.com orwww.newworldstages.com

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