I live in Greenville, SC, a small city of about 70,000 people with an extended metro-area population of perhaps 400,000. It is a pleasant, beautiful city, and it has a wealth of cultural opportunities, including five venues that present plays and musical events.
Last year, I wrote about one venue, the Greenville Little Theater, which presented ELVIS: Shake, Rattle, and Roll. Elvis tribute artist Scot Bruce starred in this presentation, and it ran for eighteen shows over a three-week period. I was skeptical that our community could support so much Elvis, but the shows were very popular and many were completely sold-out.
Now, a year later, it is obvious that my city can handle even more Elvis than that. It is also obvious that Elvis’ impact on popular culture is strong and growing. So strong, in fact, that the coming season at the Greenville Little Theater includes three Elvis-related events.
First, Scot Bruce is back for another extended run of his Shake, Rattle and Roll show, including on one on August 16, the date of Elvis’ death. So, the big-time Elvis fans in the area won’t have to go to Elvis Week in Memphis to honor the King. We can do it right here.
Scot Bruce specializes in Elvis’ music from the 50s and 60s. Last year, he performed 28 songs, split into two segments. He opened with a delightful set of Elvis’ early hits. I especially liked when he was joined at center stage by just the guitarist and bass player, and they did a tribute to Elvis’ songs from Sun Records.
I will be going back again this year to see Scot Bruce perform and I can’t wait. This is a really fun show.
Then, a month later, the theater will present Smokey Joe’s Café, which features thirty-nine rock and roll songs by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
The show is presented in revue format with no unifying theme or dialogue, just thirty-nine songs performed by the members of the cast in various combinations. Smokey Joe’s Café has been around since its premiere in Los Angeles in 1994. It ran on Broadway from 1995 to 2000, a total of 2,036 performances, and now theaters around the country present it for their local audiences.
Leiber and Stoller wrote a bunch of songs for Elvis, and eight are included in the show:
Finally, the Greenville Little Theatre will present a two-week run of the comedy Elvis Has Left the Building. The title is appropriate, because in the play Elvis is AWOL on the evening of a big performance in 1970.
The main character is the Colonel, and the plot revolves around his efforts to save the show. He reaches back to the old hypnotism shtick from his carny days, and somehow comes up with two emergency pseudo-Elvises.
When our local theater director picks the two actors for these roles, I hope he comes up with men that resemble Elvis better than these guys in a Virginia production of the play.
There is no denying that Elvis is prominent in the entertainment shows being presented this season in my little city. I never considered Greenville, SC to be a hotbed of Elvis fans, but two years ago when Elvis on Tour had its one-night showing here, the theater was jam-packed, so maybe we are.
I think the real reason so much Elvis-related entertainment is coming to town is because Elvis, thirty-five years after his death, is ingrained in American popular culture more than ever. Keep an eye out for Elvis coming to your town in one form or another.
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