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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

ELVIS CENTRESTAGE! (article first published : 2008-03-28)

Take heart, Presley fans, Elvis hasn’t left the building! In fact you can see him - albeit interpreted very effectively by no less than five highly talented performers - in Elvis Centrestage!, which is currently having a short run in the Playhouse Drama.

Staged by Lynette Collett with Mike Broderick’s trademark splendid lighting design, Elvis Centrestage! comes from Centrestage, the creators of the highly successful Magnificent 7 shows which have played to packed houses in Durban in the past.

The voice of Elvis Presley greets the audience as the auditorium darkens and we are reminded of his Memphis accent and individual manner of speech. The curtain rises and the two side screens feature an image of him as he looks down onto the stage with an enigmatic smile as a vibrant presentation of his first big hit, That’s Allright Mama, bursts forth … and the accelerator pedal stays down from then on!

The show is fast, humorous, highly energetic and very entertaining. It also remains true to the Presley sound. Links are provided by Elvis’s voice as well as images of him in performance, with his manager and mentor Colonel Parker or pensively in repose. The musicians are versatile, most of them interchanging vocals with instruments – or doing both at the same time!

Of course, it’s not all in the fast lane as we slip smoothly into the velvety strains of Are you Lonesome Tonight; Love Me Tender; You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me and Can’t Help Falling in Love.

The main “Elvis” is Rory McLaren, who puts in an impressive high energy performance as he charts most of Elvis Presley’s extraordinary output of hit numbers throughout his career.

He is ably supported by Wayne Kallis and musical director Donovan Hattingh, who handle their fair share of the numbers, as well as keyboardist Kanya Matomela who gave us a spirited Trouble and drummer Gino Fabbri who delighted audiences with Burning Love and a highly amusing GI Blues.

The Centrestage All-Star Band is top notch. The brass section – Shaun Lyon, Jeff Taylor and Marlon Louis – aided the powerful big band sound and Mike McAuley on bass kept the deep beat going on what is a physically demanding show for the performers.

The Sweet Sensations – Donna Africa, Lelanie Fourie and Lani Botha – provided the role of the back-up singers but stronger direction was needed here in the first half when their movements weren’t always in sync or focused.

Elvis Centrestage! is presented by The Playhouse Company and runs until April 6. Tickets R100 at Computicket on 083 915 8000 or call Playhouse Box Office on 031 360 0540 or 031 369 9596. Early booking is advised – this is bound to attract good audiences – and you certainly get your money’s worth! – Caroline Smart




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