Celebrating 50 years since Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback Special,’ This is Elvis showing at The New Alexandra Theatre is a captivating part tribute act, part play which really brings the best of The King to modern audiences.
This is Elvis tells the story behind Presley’s monumental return to performing live for the first time in seven years, pivoting away from his film career back to his musical roots. More than a tribute show, the play charts the self-doubt and tensions behind the NBC show that became known as Elvis’ 68 Comeback Special and ultimately relaunched his music career. But it doesn’t shy away from the darker sides of The King’s return, depicting the fractious relationship with manager Colonel Tom Parker and avoidance of wife Priscilla, as well as self-doubt about his relevance to audiences of the time and hints at his alcohol and drug dependency.
Act two transports the audience to Las Vegas, playing their own part as the audience of The King’s debut show, as Elvis takes up residency. It’s a clever way of lifting a tribute act and placing it firmly in some of Elvis’ iconic historic moments, but it never feels anything less than a powerful performance.
Unsurprisingly, a play about King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s triumphant return to performing live includes several well-known hits performed by Michaels, including Heartbreak Hotel, Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, Love Me Tender, All Shook Up, Jailhouse Rock, Are you Lonesome Tonight, Can’t Help Falling in Love, and Suspicious Minds. The audience is swept away, encouraged to dance and even those who may not remember Elvis the first time round, a one of the 20th century’s most iconic performers, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment.
Award-winning tribute artist and actor Steve Michaels plays the titular role of Elvis, having grown up with a passion for The King himself, and been fortune to play alongside some of Elvis Presley’s iconic band mates. Not only does he look the part, but Michaels’ plays the role with an unbelievable amount of passion and infectious energy. The second act particularly is a powerful and electric performance, played with an incredible amount of heart, and it’s clear that Michaels is enjoying it as much as the audience – and at times it might be possible to wonder if King himself could put this much passion into a performance.
This is Elvis is a tribute act show lightly grounded in historic events, but with all the enthusiasm and soul of a a concert. It’s a captivating evening, and a thoroughly enjoyable night out.
The show is at the New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham until 24 March before it continues its national tour. For tickets, visit atgtickets.com/Birmingham
This was a press event. Photographs were taken by Pamela Raith.