Australian Dance Reviews

‘Elvis: A Musical Revolution’: The vibe of the era

Rob Mallett in 'Elvis: A Musical Revolution'. Photo by Nicole Cleary.
Rob Mallett in 'Elvis: A Musical Revolution'. Photo by Nicole Cleary.

State Theatre, Sydney.
9 February 2024.

Elvis: A Musical Revolution, produced by David Venn Enterprises, began its 2024 new and exciting revamped season this week, once again gracing the stage of the State Theatre in Sydney. Elvis: A Musical Revolution is a fast-paced biographical of the life of Elvis Presley, the king of rock’n’roll, one of the most celebrated music artists of the last century. Presley emerged in his time as a revolutionary artist, who influenced the course of musical composition, creating a genre with his mix of country, jazz, gospel, the sound we know today as quintessentially rock’n’roll. Elvis: A Musical Revolution is an inspiring story of one man’s rise from the depths of poverty, to become a household name that is synonymous with a genre. 

With scenes that go between Elvis’ child and adulthood, the show opens with a brief look at his internal struggle that shaped his later days. This sits juxtaposed to the childhood that shaped his compositional style, themes and mood. Narrative takes the audience on a journey in how the influences of rhythm and blues, gospel, and country music styles came to weave their signature into his body of work. This re-vamped version of the show is faster-paced, in some ways losing the impact that the original had in impressing his childhood experience.

In the original staging, the writing seemed to be gradually working up to the telling of Elvis’ tragic end of life, with a sudden change of pace into a big dance number which seemed to be depicting a live show, and then the whole musical ended. It felt quite abrupt, from a long build up, to nothing really significant.  It felt disjointed, unfinished and disappointing. This version ended with a similar high but instead rounded off with a video montage of photos of the king. In some ways, this version felt like more of a satisfying finish, a homage to a legend, and not such an abrupt end to what had been quite an interesting and revealing story until that point.

Michael Ralph’s choreography in Elvis: The Musical Revolution is genius. It is energetic, true to genre, exuberant, and eager to have us fall in love with the 1950s and oozing ’60s in a fresh and relevant way. It tells the story and vibe of these eras better than any scripting or song writing can. There is a wonderful, natural quality to Ralph’s work. The movement is clean, concise, and adds layers and depth to the work that keeps it moving along nicely. As per the original, there were some fantastic rock’n’roll partner sequences that again do not fail to bring gasps and squeals of delight from the audience.

Rob Mallett’s Elvis was a natural, moving in the organic and quintessential Elvis style with ease, with abandonment and an infusion of the energy in the sound his character was known for in real life. It was astonishing to see Mallett infuse each scene with the same energy and enthusiasm he brought to the opening night six months ago. His beautiful energy permeates each scene, making tangible the essence of the era, and his voice echoed perfectly the legendary depth and tone of the king himself.

Young Elvis in the opening night cast as played by Daniel Lim. He was a very cute Young Elvis, talented in the musical and acting side of his character. His movement skills left something to be desired, weakening his portrayal a bit, but he did his best to play the role with eagerness and sincerity. Annie Chiswell lacked her usual onstage charisma as Priscilla, falling a bit flat in this performance, but keeping good energy in her ensemble parts. She is a brilliant triple threat performer who seemed to be somewhat off her usual effervescent energy in this performance. The entire cast once again had a wonderful energy and stamina as per their previous season, notably Kirby Burgess as Ann Margaret again brought a fantastic star quality energy. Ironic considering the real-life struggles between Elvis’ wife and his co-star.

Elvis: A Musical Revolution is a biographic tribute to a musical legend who walked his own path, and helped shaped a genre. Biographic musicals are a wonderful way to get a snapshot of a legend and experience their music in a venue that can tune the sound to perfection. Elvis: A Musical Revolution is well worth the night out. Don’t miss it this time around!

By Linda Badger of Dance Informa.

To Top