Luxe Life Blog
Viva Elvis receives a subtle but instrumental makeover
It’s almost a classic chicken and egg story. Which came first? Originally, it was the old Elvis Presley recordings that stayed out of the spotlight in Cirque du Soleil’s Viva Elvis at MGM CityCenter’s Aria. They were raw -- and to be honest -- ancient in terms of our digital age. As the show continued to change, tweak and polish itself to perfection, the masters of music went to work, and now it’s their new soundtrack that drives the spectacular.
Musical arranger and album producer Erich van Tourneau told VegasDeLuxe.com last November what it took to remaster the show’s recordings, and now after more than a year of studio engineering, it’s the new soundtrack that propels the show along at a much faster pace and energy.
Erich told me: “I gave a new lease on life to the original superstar. Every track has the same energy he had back in 1954, but in a 2010 technological way.”
In the early stages of Viva Elvis, it told a familiar story in an almost flat monotone. It’s now been given new blood with excitement and a controlled but frantic fever pitch. The narrative has been cut down and the Col. Tom Parker character relocated. The dancing seems faster and more electrically charged. Now it’s all showmanship throughout and makes the blue suede shoe even larger than it is with the dancers sprawled all over it.
I didn’t see major changes to the “Jailhouse Rock” number, which is my favorite in the show. I still sat mesmerized watching the performers walk upside down in the air. How can you improve on that feat anyway? The amazing trampoline gymnastics seem faster and more challenging. Even the showgirl “Viva Las Vegas” finale seems a bigger and better spectacle.
No wonder everybody from Priscilla Presley herself, who still pops in regularly to keep an eye on the production, to rescued Chilean miner Edison Pena just last week raves about the new look to the show. Edison was in Graceland for The King of Rock and Roll’s birthday celebrations Jan. 8 and traveled here directly from Graceland. The miner, who sang Elvis songs to bolster his 33 co-workers trapped for more than 60 days, was “totally amazed” by the seventh Cirque show on The Strip.
Priscilla, who will be here for the Woman of the Year tribute by the Nevada Ballet Theater on Jan. 29, says, “Elvis would have loved the show on The Strip and the new soundtrack album. His presence is on The Strip where he loved to perform. So I think he’d be very honored by it.”
Priscilla said she loved the new feel to the show and the new sound because it’s bringing a whole new generation of fans to Elvis’ music. The night I was there, the theater was packed, and the audience was young and old alike. The only difference was that the younger people got out of their seats to dance, while the older ones clapped and sang along with the hits. Parents and grandparents brought their youngsters with them, and there was no age barrier to the love of Presley’s power.
Cirque has a reputation of always fine tuning and tinkering its productions, and now a year after it opened, Viva Elvis has found its heart and soul -- and produced its own soundtrack music for Elvis to rock on for years to come. There’s no danger that he’s ever going to be forgotten.
He isn’t leaving this house for a very long time. If he returned to see it, I’m certain that he’d be speechless, except for: “Thank you. Thank you very much.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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