Everything Elvis

Hunka Hunka Burning Love

A few years ago, we accidentally ended up at an amateur night for Elvis impersonators.   We saw young Elvis, army Elvis, fat Elvis, Elvis wearing black vinyl, Elvis in white satin, even a 12 year old Elvis and an 80 year old Elvis.  And none of them could actually carry a tune.  We snuck out at the first opportunity.

Having had that experience, we were almost reluctant to go to Victoria Playhouse’s “Everything Elvis” thinking it was going to be another night of impersonators.  But much to our enjoyment, it was so much better.

Victoria Playhouse has collected the songs that Elvis made famous and given them to a talented cast of seven to sing.  They make it clear that they are not impersonators; they are, in fact, making these songs their own.  Nevertheless, they include a comedy routine where they do attempt some impersonation, imitating Elvis’ sneer, swivelling hips, and other funny attributes.

everything elvis smBut it is the cast’s interpretation of these songs and their rich voices that make this show such an entertaining evening.  Michael Torontow is outstanding with his smooth, clear vocals singing hits like It’s Now or Never and Always on My Mind.  Callandra Dendias gives a powerful a cappella version of I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.  Jennifer Wall sings a cute rendition of Little Sister, Aaron Tessis gives his all in Polk Salad Annie and Alex Baerg has a heartwarming version of Lonesome Tonight. Baerg also gives a moving acoustic rendition of In the Ghetto.

Other favourites include the entire ensemble:  Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog, Viva Las Vegas and more. The band joins the cast in singing gospel numbers, sounding like a full choir.

Choreographer Adele MacKenzie takes to the stage herself for this show.  She and dancer extraordinaire Caitlin McKeon perform energetic dance numbers, as well as singing back up.

Two big screens show historic Elvis photos and the cast members present various tidbits of Elvis trivia.  In fact, Act II opens with audience members chosen for a quiz show where they are asked Elvis-themed questions.  Joining in on the fun are Liza Minnelli (Walls), Michael Jackson (Tessis), Patsy Cline (Dendias) and Buddy Holly (Baerg), with Torontow as a hilarious quiz master. Walls has fun with the fact that Liza is the only living member of this motley crew.

The seven piece band provides a rich, full sound.  VPP favourite Dee Klinger demonstrates his guitar talent once again, and a horn section (sax, trombone, trumpet) fills the theatre with soaring notes.  Credit goes to musical director Mark Payne, who plays keyboard and also sings in many numbers. Payne provides lead vocals in a lively version of Suspicious Minds.

Kudos go to costume designer Molly Cramer for the variety of satin jump suits.

There is only one problem with this show – it’s a short run.  Making it even shorter, the opening night planned for September 5 had to be cancelled when power was off due to a thunder storm.  Opening night was re-scheduled for the following Wednesday, with the show closing just three days later.  Too bad – word of mouth would have brought out full houses, so let’s hope we see it back on stage next summer.

Everything Elvis continues at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until September 13.  Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 for tickets or visit www.thevpp.ca

Everything Elvis
Musical Arranger and Director – Mark Payne
Director – David Hogan
Choreographer – Adele Mackenzie
Performed by Michael Torontow, Alex Baerg, Callandra Dendias, Adele MacKenzie, Caitlin McKeon, Aaron Tessis, Jennifer Walls.
Starbright Band – Mark Payne, Dan Baerg, Tony DeLuca, Dee Klinger, Randy Rektor, Mike Polci, Paul Otway.
Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia
September 2-13, 2014
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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