Elvis — A Musical Revolution, with a large and exciting cast

Although retired since 2014, I still relish opportunities to teach, write, and share opinions.
Elvis — A Musical Revolution has much in common with Million Dollar Quartet from 2011, and Saturday Night Fever, the Musical, since its creators were associated with both hits. We see Elvis as a child, atypically drawn to the “Race Music” of the day, to falling into recording and local success. The rather shady Colonel Parker then brings Elvis to national attention, wealth, and an unhealthy symbiotic relationship where he as manager took 50% of all Elvis made. We also get to hear many of Elvis’ hits like “Love Me Tender,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Viva Las Vegas,” and many more medleys from film and television. 
If any criticism can be levelled against  Elvis — A Musical Revolution, it would be its overreliance on the soap opera aspect of the spoken dialogue. The painful excoriating delivered at length by Elvis to his band members, his domestic drama with Priscilla, and her jealousy of Ann Margret, and the weird Frank Sinatra duet with Elvis after Sinatra condemned Elvis before a Congressional panel. 
The musical could use some judicious condensing and smoothing of the plot, possibly by a narrator, since we are shown Elvis as a legend after his Christmas television special, bringing the show to a vigorous conclusion.
Lucas Pastrana is phenomenal as Elvis. He is onstage for most of the evening, performing Elvis’ hits impeccably, eerily channeling the vocal inflections and wild energy of Elvis. Then, he also switches gears to deliver a heartfelt performance of the plot, detailing a life that never seems to go smoothly. As Colonel Parker, Kelly Briggs brings the lying, stealing, overbearing, duplicitous character to vivid life. We see him wring the neck of the goose that laid the golden egg just enough to keep it alive and producing. He seems to want the marriage between Elvis and Priscilla (does the brilliant Jenna Pastuszek intentionally play naive for Elvis, or is she a bit dim?) to end, fueling Priscilla’s jealousy by bringing her on the film set where Elvis and Ann Margret (played with immense style and panache by Meredith Beck) are filming love scenes. One quote from Colonel Parker sums up his view of marriage: “First, there’s the engagement ring, then the wedding ring, followed by the suffering.” Many cast members are called upon to do double, or triple duty in different roles. Bravo to all these fine actors who do this once or twice a day, eight times a week. 
The Walnut Street Theatre’s fine Creative Team continue their high standards, and the large band provides live music throughout. Chris Burcheri provides spot-on Music and Vocal Direction, and Jeff Calhoun shone as Director and Choreographer. 
Elvis — A Musical Revolution is the first Elvis Presley musical to be licensed by Elvis Presley Enterprises, now overseen by Elvis’ granddaughter Riley Keough, following Lisa Marie Presley’s death earlier this year on January 23 at age 54. Priscilla Presley, who was married to Elvis from 1967-1973, has been removed from the trust. The legal dispute between Priscilla and Riley was settled in June 2023.
Rolling Stone has reported that the Presley Trust is worth between $400 to $500 million in 2020.  
Elvis — A Musical Revolution is still playing in Australia, where it premiered earlier this year. This is the East Coast premiere of the musical, and from all indications, it should be a hit for Elvis Presley fans, as well as anyone who loves an energetic, vibrant musical. 
For information and tickets, visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org .
Future productions will include Beauty and the Beast, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Groucho, and Beautiful

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