Hal Wallis once said “An Elvis picture is the only sure thing in Hollywood.” The same might be said of “Viva ELVIS Cirque du Soleil,” one of the few sure bets in a struggling Las Vegas today.
I had the great pleasure of attending the world premiere of this highly-anticipated show in Vegas last Friday night. Waiting for the show to begin, I have to admit I was skeptical and even a bit apprehensive; I’ve been disappointed so many times in the past thirty-two years. But then, this was Cirque du Soleil, known for their creativity and professionalism, so perhaps they would surprise me. Yet how could anyone or any show possibly capture and convey the magic of Elvis? The set designer for the show, Mark Fisher, acknowledged the challenge they faced in creating this show when he said, “Elvis has transcended reality and become a kind of mythic figure.”
Look, we all know only too well that Elvis has left the building and no one can truly bring him back. But to my utter amazement and great joy I soon realized that – in a unique and spectacular way - I was experiencing Elvis once more, sitting there in the Elvis Theater at the Aria Resort and Casino. In an eye-popping extravaganza, he dances, laughs, sings and goofs as he explodes on a massive screen. What a brilliant move, bypassing the use of any male singers for live renditions of his songs. Elvis plays Elvis, coming to life as never before. His image on the huge screen above the stage is so compelling, I had to force my eyes to look at the stage to watch the amazing performers. And they are truly amazing dancers, gymnastic-acrobats and singers, all united in Cirque du Soleil’s celebration of Elvis’ remarkable legacy.
The show hits the highlights in Elvis’ life and career, taking us on a journey that includes his musical roots in the southern church, his youthful fascination with comic superheroes, his army years, his love affair with Hollywood and his own movie career, culminating in his record-setting Las Vegas triumph.
On a personal level his relationship with Priscilla and their wedding are beautifully and gracefully portrayed. I loved the aerial ballet of two couples floating above the stage in wedding rings.
One of the most poignant and intimate moments was when “Viva ELVIS” soars into metaphor in a tender rendition of the ballad “One Night With You”. Two young men that we recognize as Elvis and Jesse Garon execute soulful acrobatics, alone and together, on a guitar-shaped apparatus suspended in front of a starry night.
“Viva ELVIS” is truly a spectacle, theatrically and dramatically chronicling Elvis’ musical biography. Rockin’ good music, breathtaking acrobats and dancers, dazzling sets and costumes play off stunning archival footage and iconic images of Elvis, making this the perfect experience. I left the theater feeling totally satisfied…yet wanting more.