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|ELVIS BACK IN VEGAS & THE ONLY LET DOWN IS THE ELVIS SHOW
Priscilla' "actor" or as we all know as the IMP gives Elvis' Vegas Return a sour note!
Hey Priscilla. Next time you’re in town, I can introduce you to some guys.“The Elvis Experience” flips the usual Las
Vegas problem of Elvis impersonators wiggling by with a trio or, in extreme cases, a karaoke machine.
This show offers the hallowed ground of the former Las Vegas Hilton’s stage and the 31-piece musical ensemble
that is every devotee’s dream. It’s the Elvis who disappoints.
The show, running through May 27, stakes out a new direction of all-Elvis programming for the Westgate’s historic
main showroom. The plan is for rotating Elvis-related titles to be produced or presented by Elvis Presley
Enterprises and the operators of Graceland.
Who did they pick for their best-foot-forward first impression? Martin Fontaine, a Canadian who for years toured
with a theatrical revue called “The Elvis Story” (which could be one of the showroom’s future attractions). He is said
to be Priscilla Presley’s favorite tribute artist.
Perhaps it’s because he has his own career away from the jumpsuit, and a vocal delivery that doesn’t slavishly
imitate Elvis. But does that wash with the rest of us? Fontaine is up there in the wig and the white jumpsuit, and it’s
just a little too late to turn back the clock on our expectations. Remember, they have contests to see who can look and sound the most like this guy.I had already written in my notepad
that Fontaine sounded more like Engelbert Humperdinck on ballads such as “The Wonder of You” before Fontaine cracked a throwaway joke about Engelbert.
The physical resemblance is close enough, and Fontaine has an impressive mastery of the karate moves. But his voice was more like that of a folk singer and consistently
underpowered. This is a showcase some of the better Las Vegas Elvi — Matt Lewis, Travis Allen, Victor Trevino, Jr. — would kill for. But Fontaine as hands-on producer isn’t likely to
Still, if it’s possible to have some other reason to see an Elvis show than the Elvis, this one which brings something different to town. As the producer, Fontaine goes to admirable
attempts to replicate a full Las Vegas show circa 1972.Those of us who have been in Las Vegas too long may have to be reminded the real Elvis did not come out for a Wrockabilly
set, then a “ ’68 Comeback Special” segment followed by the Vegas jumpsuit. Shocking, I know.
“The Elvis Experience” looks at what he was really up to back in the day: Mashing up “Little Sister” with the Beatles’ “Get Back,” and blending the hits with more obscure blues-n’
-soul rockers such as “My Baby,” or churchy ballads like “You Gave Me a Mountain”. Fontaine knows that Vegas Elvis joked around with the band and the audience and often did
his iconic ’50s hits as toss-offs or walk-throughs, but threw himself into the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.”
Eight horns and strings augment the seven-piece band, and eight singers harmonize as the Sweet Inspirations and Stamps Quartet. They all wear ’70s wigs and play on vintage gear
(which may explain the sound being kind of tinny) to get that full-blown Memphis groove on “Burning Love” and “Polk Salad Annie”.
Only the rear screen is a nod to the present, and that’s cool because, remember, this show is estate-sanctioned and we actually get to see photos of the real Elvis for a change. So
we walk away from this mixed blessing with a mixed message. It’s good to have sanctioned Elvis product back in town. Can’t wait to see what they bring us next. But the Graceland folks
also have to realize that all those guys working out there in the public domain to keep his name alive set the bar pretty high after all.