Just when you thought there couldn't be any new ways to celebrate the life and music of Elvis Presley, along comes Heartbreak Hotel In Concert. The new production at Harrah's Las Vegas is an extravaganza of swiveling hips, legendary blues and rockabilly guitar hits that will have you rising from your seats with cheers.
Unlike other Elvis tribute shows, Heartbreak Hotel In Concert isn't a typical impersonation act. Instead, its talented cast of singers and a live band present a chronological journey of The King's career in word, song and style. A carefully crafted set list visits his earliest church gospel days to recordings in Memphis through his army stint and Hollywood breakout, culminating in that historic record-setting residency at the International Hotel (now the Westgate Las Vegas).
Bursting onstage with "All Shook Up," front man Eddie Clendening is an accomplished rock-a-billy powerhouse. His personal love for Presley's music shines through with every chord of "That's Alright," "Baby Let's Play House" and the number from which the show draws its title. Having previously portrayed the late superstar on Broadway in Million Dollar Quartet, in addition touring around the world with his Blue Ribbon Boys band, Eddie knows instinctively how to channel Presley's persona and style. Rather than mimicking Elvis, the Denver Colorado native allows the music to flow through him, infusing his vocals and body language with Presley's signature heart and soul.
Musical director Colte Julian tickles the ivories and has a great time as Jerry Lee Lewis in a sequence saluting the Million Dollar Quartet jam sessions. Julian is spot on, having played the wild piano man in several productions of the long running hit based on that gathering. He's also hysterical in a "White Pop" medley that dramatically emphasizes how daring Presley's African American-influenced music was perceived by listeners of the day.
Once a two-act musical drama, Heartbreak Hotel has been re-imagined for Vegas audiences by Ivan Menchell, and staged by Jeff Calhoun as a concert experience. Each performer gets their moment to recount a historic milestone and share personal reflections of The King's songbook. Singers Jackie Wiatrowski, Tymara Walker and Fana Hughes take center stage (and the keyboards) for "Handyman," "Love Me Tender" and "Can't Help Falling In Love With You." Broadway vet Geno Henderson (guitarist for B.B King and Ike Turner) captivates the audience with a soul-filled rendition of "Are You Lonesome Tonight."
In addition to lush costumes, precise staging and slick choreography, Heartbreak Hotel has invaluable and unprecedented access to thousands of rare photographs and video footage through Elvis Presley Enterprises. They're presented as an immersive multi-media experience via four enormous LED video walls that surround and enhance the live performance.
Whether you're a long-time fan of Elvis Presley, enjoy rock and roll musical history or would just like to relive the glory days of yesteryear, Heartbreak Hotel In Concert is sure to satisfy. It's a crowd-pleasing musical experience not to be missed.
Heartbreak Hotel In Concert performs Wednesday through Sunday at Harrah's Showroom with additional matinees on Sundays at 3 p.m.