Long live the King!
By Guo Feifei (eastday.com)
Updated: 2004-11-10 09:11
On August 16, 1977, time stopped for the "King of Rock and Roll" and it was a case of "Return to Sender." Now Martin Fontaine, a red-headed French Canadian, is bringing Elvis Presley back to life in the hit musical, "The Elvis Story."
Martin Fontaine, acting as Elvis Presley in the music poses at the press conference in Shanghai.
As a tribute to the King, the play was born in the summer of 1999 at Le Capitole Theater in Quebec, Canada. Since its debut, the musical has become a phenomenal success and has traveled to the United States, France and Japan.
The musical portrays Presley's life in a series of evocative scenes. Elvis, young and dashing, has millions of fans swooning; Elvis, on completing his army service, throws himself into a series of mediocre movies; Elvis, though to be outdated, makes a comeback on television in 1968; Elvis lets himself become swallowed up by the big Las Vegas entertainment machine; Elvis becomes depressed. The rest, we know. In a show lasting around 90 minutes, the audience is regaled with 40 of the King's big hits such as "Blue Suede Shoes," "Heartbreak Hotel," "Love Me Tender" and many more. Almost all Presley's stories, from his life as a teenager in Memphis to his last concert, are presented on stage.
Scenery changes, foot-tapping choreography, well-chosen songs and magnificent costumes complete the musical.
Unlike other tribute shows that rely on canned music, the cast of this show includes four musicians and six singers. Following a successful show based on the British rock band, the Beatles, which ran for a year at Le Capitole Theater in 1994, the idea for another major production was pursued by the theater's owners.
File photo of Elvis Presley, "King of Rock and Roll."
As an avid Elvis Presley fan, Guy Cloutier, the theater's co-owner, spent much of his youth in pursuit of the King. The idea of creating a live musical production based on Presley's life, exploring both his public onstage image as well as his private life, appealed to Cloutier immensely.
With the involvement of well-known Quebec producer and artistic director Mouffe, the idea of an Elvis Presley-themed story began to come to life. Mouffe wanted the lavish show to be rich in feeling and to read "like photos from a family album." The last and most challenging part of the musical was to find a man capable not only of singing and dancing, but emulating the stage presence of Presley. And Fontaine came to the production team.
Growing up in Montreal, Fontaine immersed himself in music. By the age of 16, he had mastered the basics of almost every musical instrument he touched. Then he turned his attention to acquiring skills in ballet, jazz and acting. Later, he formed his own bands.
When the musical's producers first conducted auditions for the lead role of Presley, Fontaine was determined to leave a lasting impression on the artistic director and walk away with the lead role. He changed the direction of the entire production as well. The producers had intended to cast more than one person as the demanding, energy-draining lead. After Fontaine's haunting rendition of Presley's songs, there was no further question of a multiple lead even though he doesn't resemble Presley closely in appearance.
Fontaine's fantastic acting on stage has been acclaimed but he insists he is not emulating Presley, but interpreting him. "We show the evolution of his career through the years. We are doing Elvis from 18 until the end when he's 42. We go from Memphis to Hollywood to Las Vegas. We have voiceovers that explain his history between songs, with exclusive footage of the real Elvis performing," he says.
"It's like a time machine, because what we do is create the illusion that you are actually seeing a show with Elvis, whether it's 1956 or 1974," he says. "I think this is the only show with permission from Elvis Enterprises and the only show that explains the whole life of the man from beginning to the end." La Presse in Montreal hails the show as "well balanced, intelligent, popular ... You can't ask for more."
So let us see the King reborn and hear him again with our own eyes and ears.
Date: November 12, 7:30pm; November 13, 2pm, 7:30pm
Venue: Shanghai Grand Stage, 1111 Caoxi Rd N.
Tickets: 200-1,200 yuan
Tel: 6267-8941, 6267-0922