Review: 'This is Elvis' at New Wimbledon Theatre
As I left the theatre an elderly lady with serious mobility issues went ahead me. I’m sure she was not the only elderly citizen who had struggled to come to the performance of ‘This is Elvis’ on Monday evening at New Wimbledon Theatre. Such is the allure of ‘The King’. It’s not surprising that the audience for this production predominantly comprised of people ‘of a certain age’; a generation of great vibrancy and energy who will have experienced the wonders of Elvis Presley’s music first hand.
Steve Michaels’ performance as Elvis was dynamic, talented and full of humour. His band and singers did an excellent job in producing a vibrancy of support to their lead who of course held the stage. The electric guitar music was mesmerising and moving.
The scene was set in the first half with Elvis’s TV comeback show in 1968 (interestingly during the hour’s duration of this show no street crime was reported in the US) and the start of his emotional challenges and drug abuse. In the interval I felt the show so far had been a bit ‘flat’ and lacking something I couldn’t put my finger on – a view shared by the lady next to me. This feeling fell apart after the interval! I think the problem was to do with the fact that Steve Michaels – however talented a tribute artist and actor he is – is simply not Elvis. Also in the first half of the performance Elvis’s female fans sat quietly and starily eyed at his feet rather than letting their hair down. The tempo changed in the second half of the show.
What stood out for me was the wonderful atmosphere created in the theatre by an audience which was not afraid to let it’s hair down and join in the fun. It took a long time for a group of ladies to ‘settle down’ at the beginning of the performance; such was the excitement and anticipation of what was inevitably to come. The enormous fee offered to Elvis for a month’s work in Las Vegas raised loud spontaneous laughter from one audience member which made us all laugh.
After the interval we were all on our feet singing along to great numbers such as ‘Burning Love‘ and ‘You Were Always on my Mind’ to name but two of the greatest hits. At one stage somebody called out for ‘Suspicious Minds’ – fearful no doubt that their favourite song would be missed out. Steve Michaels went off script and laughter rang around the audience. At another stage a lady in the stalls was standing on her own – arms swaying above her head – oblivious to her solitude and absorbed in her own reverie.
Applause was given when Elvis spoke of his love for his wonderful mother. This – coming the day after Mother’s Day - was particularly poignant. Also very poignant was the fact that with the loss of a twin brother who was stillborn Elvis always felt that he was “playing for two”. It was revealing, but sad, to see the troubled man behind the façade of the star.
If you’re a fan of Elvis and his music do go along and immerse yourself in a wonderful evening of pure nostalgia.
By Carol Whittaker
March 13, 2018