If you like Elvis you will love Viva ELVIS, the new Cirque du Soleil homage at Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
Having seen every Cirque show on the Las Vegas Strip I was a little trepidacious about the plethora of Elvis possibilities. I envisioned flying Elvii, and impersonators dangling from high wires, but happily, I was wrong.
The production has integrity, and intimate Elvis moments are highlighted with extravagant Broadway dance sequences. The Cirque specialty — performers that defy gravity and our imaginations work in concert with the dancers, marrying the best of both worlds.
Blue Suede Shoes.
Walking into the spectacular theater with its rich blends of wine/burgundy, gold, as in gold records, and black, you can’t help but be wowed. The seats are possibly the most spacious and comfortable in the history of theater. And, in true Cirque tradition, girls in ‘50s costumes mingle with arriving and seated guests before they take their places as dancers on stage.
The massive curtain reflects a collage of 45’s with song titles — "Blue Suede Shoes", "King Creole", "Heartbreak Hotel" — and record company labels — Sun and RCA — reminding us of Elvis’ golden hits.
The billowing curtain comes down and the audience is taken back to the King’s humble beginnings. The Presley family, working in harmony with the Cirque du Soleil have selected never-before seen personal photographs as well as video and home movies to highlight the chapters of The King’s life.
As the introduction states in the program “. . . Viva ELVIS is a tribute to the world’s first superstar. Music, dance, and acrobatics unite in celebration of a remarkable legacy, and that rebellious explosion of love, hope and freedom that is the point of rock n’roll.”
Viva ELVIS is equal parts Broadway musical and Cirque du Soleil human circus.
One of my favorite sequences was Elvis’ Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do featuring young Presley’s superheroes unveiled in a trampoline sequence that is absolute magic.
Got a Lot O' Livin' To Do.
The show unfolds in chronological order allowing Mark Fisher’s set designs to transport us from Tupelo, Mississippi to the recording studio, to the U.S. Army, Hollywood, Hawaii, and, of course, Las Vegas.
Throughout the show movie theater-sized stills and footage of Elvis flash across a screen. If you grew up loving Elvis or this is your first real taste, the pictures will put a lump in your throat.
I was fortunate enough to see Elvis perform live, so watching the footage, and hearing a live band back his singing voice, I took a trip down memory lane. Younger audience members appeared to enjoy the show as much as those of us who were reliving our youth.
According to the program, Musical Director and arranger Erich van Tourneau sampled 914 albums and 33 films, and hours of home movie recordings to extract more than 17,765 examples of Elvis’ singing and speaking voice.
Owing to 176 multi-channel speakers, 36 sub-woofers, and the largest single ring fiber-optic audio transport system in the world, Elvis’ singing and speaking voice sound authentic — especially with the vibrant sounds of live musicians.
Giles Ste-Croix, billed as the Artistic Guide, and Armand Thomas, the Director of Creation, show their respect for Presley, the consummate entertainer, by placing him at the heart of every sequence. Whether it’s a brilliant young woman singing “One Night” (opening photo) on a piano that floats down from the rafters or ballerinas setting the tone for “Can’t Help Falling In Love” when Elvis married Priscilla, it is the dancers that make the transitions and the musical sequences spring to life.
Return to Sender.
Colonel Parker floats in and out as a narrator, but he doesn’t quite capture the larger-than-life quality of the original.
Costume designer Stefano Canulli stays true to the ‘50s and ‘60s — his fluid imagination giving us the real and the surreal. The singers and dancers are Broadway worthy, and the cirque performers are brilliant, as usual.
One might say that Elvis has left a very important legacy. He enjoyed the halcyon days of newness, prosperity, and the American dream coming true for so many, not the least of which being Elvis himself. Reliving those hope-filled times reignites our own feelings of hopefulness.
Audiences will enjoy Viva ELVIS, and without even knowing it, take away bits and pieces of American history.
The tickets start at $99.00 and go up to $175.00, plus tax. For tickets call: 702/617-5595 or 866/581-8687
The GOLD LOUNGE, designed by the Cirque du Soleil to compliment the Elvis experience, is directly across from the theater.
The lounge is predominantly gold in honor of Graceland’s décor, and the many gold records Elvis earned.
The spacious venue features specialty drinks made with the finest brands .You can sit and listen to more Elvis or great oldies the DJ is playing while you sip your delicious $16 Martini.
Signature drinks at the Gold Lounge include:
24K — Grey Goose, Grand Marnier, simple syrup, fresh lemon sour, a dash of Bitters, orange foam, and 24K gold flakes ($24)
Viva Las Vegas.
Tupelo Tea — Bulleit Bourbon, Cointreau, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and Coca Cola ($17)
Blue Suede Shoes — Grey Goose Orange, Blue Curacao, white cranberry, simple syrup, fresh lime juice and an orange wedge ($17)
Graceland — Belvedere Vodka, Ginger liqueur, simple syrup, and fresh lime juice ($17)
Call the Gold Lounge at 702/693-8300 or visit their website..
Elvis is alive and well at Aria Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
— Feature by Linda Lane, Jetsetters Magazine Theater Editor; photos by Julie Aucoin and courtesy of Cirque du Soleil.