Blue Suede Shoes: The King, The Colonel, The Memories

Elvis is in the Building

Elvis is in building, and he has the passionate audience to prove it.  Blue Suede Shoes – The King, The Colonel, The Memories kicks off the new season at London’s Grand Theatre, and if opening night is any indication, this show will bring in enthusiastic crowds.

Roy LeBlancThe show is basically Elvis in concert, with the story of his life narrated by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker.

Roy LeBlanc, originally from London, is well known in the competitive world of Elvis impersonators.  He first won the Collingwood Elvis festival in 1999, and returns as their master of ceremonies.  He has also won the title “The World’s Finest Elvis Impersonator” in Las Vegas.  LeBlanc has the looks, the moves and mannerisms and the voice of Elvis — few impersonators can excel at all aspects. LeBlanc’s voice is perfect Elvis, especially in the rock ‘n’ roll numbers in his lower range.  He has the sideburns and the smile, even the curled lip.

Chris McHarge is the creator and director, and plays the role of Colonel Tom Parker, who narrates the story.  This is another show in McHarge’s collection – such as “Summer of Love”, or “Johnny & June”.  McHarge is the former artistic director at Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover where his musical stories have proven popular.  He gives an excellent interpretation of Parker, complete with hat, cigar and a hint of southern drawl.

All the Elvis favourites are included:  there are 21 songs in Act I and 16 in Act II. Among the audience favourites are Heartbreak Hotel, Love Me Tender, Jailhouse Rock, Teddy Bear, Can’t Help Falling in Love with You, and a long line-up of hits from the various Elvis movies.  Colonel Tom tells us they turned down the lead role in the movie West Side Story, as it was going to take months to shoot. He could put out three of his typical Elvis movies in the same time frame.

In Act II, Elvis records a gospel album, against Colonel Tom’s advice, but it’s a huge success.  The audience loves LeBlanc’s Peace in the Valley, and How Great Thou Art.  Then we are taken to Elvis’ 1968 comeback television special, for hits like Hound Dog, All Shook Up, and Are You Lonesome Tonight?  My personal favourite is If I Can Dream.  We learn from Colonel Tom that Elvis commissioned the writing of this song to honour Robert Kennedy after his assassination.

The show wraps up with audience pleasers: Burning Love, In the Ghetto, Suspicious Minds, My Way and of course, the Blue Suede Shoes encore; bringing the house to its feet.

I saw this production at Playhouse II in Grand Bend in the summer of 2011. Since then, director and actor Chris McHarge has really polished it.   The show features a strong six piece band, including a horn section, for a richer sound.  Also included are three back-up singers/dancers: Rachel Fischer, Nicole Poynter and Michelle Truman.

The set is much improved since 2011: historical Elvis photos are a projected at the back of the stage and also on two screens.  Rather than sitting, Colonel Tom Parker, with his cane, walks on and off stage, giving us the background story from his perspective.  McHarge does well at improv, having some fun with the audience when he stumbled over a word, and then easily handling a heckler.  At intermission, he mingled with the audience in his Parker persona or answering questions as McHarge.

Blue Suede Shoes has the name recognition to draw a new audience to the theatre.  For Elvis fans, it’s a wonderful reincarnation and we can dream.

Blue Suede Shoes continues until November 1 the Grand Theatre, London.  Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593 or visit www.grandtheatre.com.

Blue Suede Shoes – The King, The Colonel, The Memories
Created by Chris McHarge & Colin Stewart, C2 Entertainment
Directed by Chris McHarge
Musical direction by Colin Stewart
Performed by Roy LeBlanc and Chris McHarge
Grand Theatre, London
October 14 to November 1, 2014
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

 

NEWSLETTER

Sign up here if you would like to receive notice when news, reviews, and musings are posted. You can unsubscribe at any time.