ELVIS: A Musical Revolution – Sydney Return Season – State Theatre (NSW)
Written by Sean Cercone & David Abbinanti. Directed by Alister Smith.
Reviewed by Bradley Roe
State Theatre, Sydney
Season playing until March 9, 2024
Displaying plenty of amazing Australian talent, this production is great night of fun, with memorable music led by a superb leading man
Elvis Presley is arguably one of the most famous artists who has ever lived, with a legacy that continues to influence music, live performance, and film to this day. Each one of his songs is recognisable, his signature dance moves are iconic, and his voice is truly special. Therefore, a bio-musical about his life has unspoken pressure to deliver the goods, and Elvis – A Musical Revolution sometimes does not deliver on all fronts.
The energy of opening night started from the moment the theatre doors opened and revealed the giant LED Elvis sign across the stage, with the audience chattering in anticipation as the theatre filled ready for the dazzling show. The lights dimmed, announcements were made, and we were flung right into the middle of 1968 in spectacular style. It wasn’t long until we were jumping back and forth through the late 1940s and the 1950s with the help of a projected timeline, strong costuming, and key choreographic changes for the cast. These timeline jumps were never confusing, but sometimes became a little tiresome in their repetitiveness, focusing on his roots instead of giving the audience a chance to peek into the life he led as a rock’n’roll icon.
The stage didn’t offer much to begin with, but the ever-changing nature of the set was seamless in showing where and when we were in Elvis’ life. Although the turn table felt a little overused or even unnecessary at times, it added a playful dimension to the large dance numbers that were scattered throughout the show.
Photos by Don Arnold
The ensemble in this show were some of the most hardworking I have seen in a long time. Their dance skills were incredible, and the ambitious and impressive choreography by Michael Ralph was executed with consistent levels of energy, joy, and precision. Ralph was able to transport the audience and stage through so many different eras of music and movement with a finesse and skill that leaves the audience begging to see more. I want to give a special mention to Kirby-Burgess as Ann-Margret, who was given a show stopping number in act two that truly blew the roof.
This near flawless ensemble was led by the spectacular Rob Mallet who shone as Elvis Presley. In my opinion, the level of commitment, acting nuance, and talent displayed on stage was at a level that has not been seen for years in Australia. However, Mallet's performance was not perfect with some accent slip ups and words missed by the audience due to articulation, but his performance was overwhelmingly spectacular and fit for the undeniable King of Rock‘n’Roll.
The many people who influenced Elvis throughout the portion of his life we got to see were played beautifully by the supporting cast. Noni McCallum’s Gladys Presley was heart-warming with gorgeous vocals and beautiful insight into how Elvis was raised. Colonel Parker was played as slimy, assertive, and manipulative by Ian Stenlake, with
some strong acting moments through the second act. Other standouts in the supporting cast were Ben Hall as Sam Phillips, Aidan O Cleirigh as Scotty Moore and the amazing vocals of Charly Williams and Jo-Anne Jackson. Unfortunately, Annie Chiswell’s powerful Priscilla Presley was only featured in three scenes that only highlighted their meeting, the marital breakdown and after their child’s birth – a missed opportunity to delve more into her influence in Elvis’ life.
This was a general theme for this show, extended scenes or songs that cut into time that could have been given to other aspects of Elvis’ life. We spent a lot of time with a very talented kid Elvis, discovering the origins of his love for music and connection with soul music. However, we did not get a true look into his marriage, life at Graceland, or what happened after 1968. Although parts were missing, the calibre of talent and how this story presented with such a high level of professionalism, energy, and style it almost excused these oversights with a show that is fit for the king.
Elvis – A Musical Revolution is such a fun night out, that is sure to delight all Elvis fans - die hard or otherwise - that want to relive the magic of seeing ‘the king’ live on stage. It is such an incredible display of amazing Australian talent, with a very strong ensemble led by a superb leading man. If you are looking for an easy, fun and memorable night out, head to the State theatre before Elvis leaves the building yet again.
David Venn PRODUCER
Sean Cercone WRITER
David Abbinanti WRITER
Alister Smith DIRECTOR
Michael Ralph CHOREOGRAPHER
Daniel Puckey MUSIC DIRECTOR
Tanya Mitford ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
Isaac Lummins COSTUME DESIGNER
Declan O'neill LIGHTING DESIGNER
Dan Potra SET DESIGNER
Greg Ginger SOUND DESIGNER
David Mckinnon VIDEO DESIGNER
Adrian Szondy ASSOCIATE MUSIC DIRECTOR
Kirby Burgess ASSISTANT CHOREOGRAPHER
Emma Waxman CASTING COORDINATOR
Mark Andrew ELVIS CONSULTANT