Theatre Review: Elvis: A Musical Revolution

The energy from the cast explodes off the stage in this wonderful homage to The King, his life and his musical legacy

The energy from the cast explodes off the stage in this wonderful homage to The King, his life and his musical legacy

Presented by: David Venn Enterprises

Reviewed: 3 April, 2024

There is no denying it. Elvis Presley was, and still is, the king of rock’n’roll. His legacy gave the world a musical revolution that changed the industry for the better. Elvis: A Musical Revolution is a high-octane new bio-musical, presented by David Venn Enterprises in partnership with Authentic Brands Group — the owners of Elvis Presley Enterprises. After the explosive audience response at the Adelaide premiere, it is clear to see how this production is a wonderful celebration of The King’s life and times.

Elvis: A Musical Revolution is a brilliant homage to the life of The King. From his humble beginnings as a child in Tupelo, Mississippi through to his triumphant 1968 comeback special, this production is a celebration of one of the most influential artists to grace the world. As director Alister Smith says in his program notes, ‘This is not a womb to tomb biography’. The show ends during the comeback special. It is a very creative and clever production. The score is packed with more Elvis hits than you could imagine. It’s not your average jukebox musical. The numbers only aid the storytelling with innovative reimagined arrangements of Elvis’s classic hits. 

Rob Mallett IS the king. Playing the iconic role of Elvis Presley would be no easy feat, but Mallett has perfectly captured the complex life that Elvis led. Oozing sex appeal, Mallett has captured the voice, the moves and the personality through his captivating performance. His character development throughout the show is applaudable. From humble beginnings to seeing fame and fortune get to his head and then utter heartache and grief at the passing of his mother, Mallett makes it all believable. Mallett handles all the big Elvis hits with vocal ease, but it’s in Can’t Help Falling In Love where we really see his acting work shine — this is one emotional packed number. 

Adelaide’s own Annie Chiswell has returned home playing Priscilla Presley. Whilst the role isn’t as big as one would imagine, Chiswell packs a punch with her delivery. Vocally, Chiswell is sublime, but it’s her acting skills that cut through. In some scenes very little is spoken, but it’s Chiswell’s mannerisms and facial expressions that really tell the emotive drive behind what Pricillia is feeling, especially at the height of Elvis’s fame where it’s clear his family are an afterthought. 

On opening night, Nemanja Ilic superbly portrayed young Elvis. This is one up-and-coming young Adelaide performer that we need to watch. Ilic’s accent and dialect work was on-point as was his stunning vocals. Elvis was known for his unique brand of dance moves, and Ilic has captured them brilliantly. When you are surrounded by a cast full of exceptional talent, you need to be able to stand your ground. Ilic did this and at times, ran rings around the rest of the cast. His smile was infectious and his love of performing shone through. 

There is so much talent in the supporting cast for Elvis: A Musical Revolution. Noni McCallum delivers a heart-felt portrayal of Elvis’s mother, Gladys. Her duet with Young Elvis, Peace in the Valley is stunning. As Elvis’s manager, Colonel Parker, Ian Stenlake hits all the right character notes. There is also a lot of incredible character work from the rest of the supporting leads.

Vocally, the ensemble was stunning. From tight, well drilled harmonies through to brilliant solo voices — this was an exceptional ensemble. This was only topped by the way they carried out the choreography. Every big production number was packed full of energy. A standout was Blue Suede Shoes at the top of the second act where the ensemble’s energy exploded off the stage. Their character work was also excellent. Many of them jumped between several rolls.

One of the biggest highlights in this production is Michael Ralph’s exceptional choreography. The energy that drove each and every big production number exploded off the stage. It creatively paid homage to the 1950s, 60s and 70s with some impressive flips and sharp movements that just made you want to jump up out of your seat and join in.

Alister Smith’s direction is slick. The whole show slides effortlessly between scenes. The set, whilst very simple, worked. Nothing more than a raised platform across the back of the stage, sliding flats, some well placed screens for projection and simple, moveable set pieces, the stage never felt cluttered and only allowed space for the choreography to shine. The use of projection was effectively used. On the most part, it showed the audience the location and year the scene was set in. Declan O’Neill’s lighting design was the perfect visual accompaniment. All the stops were pulled out for the big production numbers (especially when it was a snapshot of one of Elvis’s live performances), but during the dialogue the design was never obtrusive.

Musical Director Daniel Puckey and Associate Musical Director Adrian Szondy have not only drilled the cast with their exceptional vocals, but collated a top-notch band. They perfectly executed the score with finesse and brilliant musicality. As the band was located in a room elsewhere in the theatre, it was a shame that they were not properly acknowledged during the bows. It also was a shame that the printed programs did not credit the local, hard-working band (mass printing job of the program with original band from interstate listed) but only credited on a small screen tucked away next to the foyer bar (complete with misspelt names!). It’s a shame that this is a recurring trend with this production company as the same thing was noted on a past show they brought to Adelaide.

For the most part the audio mix was excellent. It’s just a shame there were several moments throughout the show where the band was mixed over the top of the cast. This was particularly noticeable at the top of each act where you had to strain your ears to hear the vocals through the mix. It was surprising to learn that there were limited preview performances where these issues are usually ironed out before the show officially opens. 

Elvis: A Musical Revolution is electrifying. The energy from the cast explodes off the stage in this wonderful homage to The King, his life and his musical legacy. With only a short run in Adelaide, get in quick, tickets won’t last long. Don’t miss out otherwise Elvis will have left the building.

Reviewed by Ben Stefanoff

Photo credit: Ken Leanfore

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre
Season: Until 28 April, 2024
Duration: 2.5 hours, including intermission
Tickets: From $69

Read our interview with Rob Mallett (Elvis Presley) HERE.

Read our interview with Annie Chiswell (Priscilla Presley) HERE.

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