Kingsized Elvis Birthday Spectacular
Variety Playhouse

Text and photos by Frederick Noble

I've seen Kingsized to Elvis so many times and for so many years that I prefer to skip a show or two these days so that the novelty and amazement has built back up.

As has been the case for the last few years, the show started with a movie, this time featuring clips from the news announcing Elvis' death back in '77. The horn section slowly fades in as the movie slowly fades out and soon it's the usual opening theme that works into CC Rider. Mike appears, The Dames Aflame slink on stage (with a whole batch of new Dames since the last time I saw 'em) in amazing costumes, Little E, the midget Elvis brings out a towel, the crowd cheers (many of them in Elvis attire as well), Mike's voice booms out and POW - Elvis extravaganza!

There are always a few surprises. This year Mike brought back the sťance, in a way. Rather than the candlelight vigil we used to hold at midnight at The Star Bar, resulting in visits from Elvis, Deacon Lunchbox and Gregory Dean Smalley, it was hardly 9PM when Mike urged the crowd into a chant in an effort to bring back the spirit of The King. Instead, we got Neil Diamond.

(How we reached Neil Diamond with a sťance, when the man isn't dead yet, is a mystery to me.)

Mike and Neil chatted a bit before getting back to the music, a mix of early and late Elvis, stage and screen Elvis, rock, ballads, gospel - the gamut of Elvis experience. Mike even danced around a bit this year, something I haven't seen in all the Kingsized shows I've been to.

But for me, no matter how lavish the production gets it's all about Mike's voice and charisma. The man can belt out a tune, then flash a winning smile.

The sťance brought us the spirit of Johnny Cash, then eventually Elvis himself, first on screen them, miraculously, on stage where The King did a duet with Kingsized.

Somewhere in there a parade of Elvises appeared, as everyone who'd bedazzled a jumpsuit for the show lined up on stage. (Alas, my little camera wasn't up to the task most of the time. Like me, it prefers more intimate venues.)

The last several years the encore has featured a "What Would Elvis Do?" set. Saturday included Flaming Lips and ELO.

Mike and the dancers paraded out through the audience into the lobby but it wasn't worth pushing through the crowd just to say hello. I haven't seen the Variety that crowded in ages, maybe ever. It was very difficult to up the aisle for a beer, then all but impossible to get back. On one hand, I'm happy for the success of everyone involved and the show is spectacular. On the other hand, I miss the early days at The Star Bar. Why can't I have it both ways? I have two hands, after all!

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