Sunday 23 October 2016

Review: Feelgood show is all shake, rattle and roll

Musical: Love Me Tender, Bord Gais Energy Theatre

Published 24/09/2015 | 02:30

A scene from Love Me Tender. Photo: Johan Persson
A scene from Love Me Tender. Photo: Johan Persson

Having spun the hit parades of Abba, Queen and even Green Day into box-office gold it was inevitable that the jukebox musical would eventually fix its avaricious gaze on the catalogue of Elvis Presley. But rather than foisting a cynical cash-in upon audiences, Karen Bruce's Love Me Tender effortlessly conveys the cheesy majesty of Presley at his prime.

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Knockabout and irreverent, with a slapstick rom-com plot that makes less sense the more you think about it, the show delivers endless feel-good infusions, thanks to a heroically enthusiastic cast and a songbook that captures the sweep and occasionally the majesty of Elvis's repertoire.

Soul singer Mica Paris and Shaun Williamson - aka Barry from EastEnders - are the names above the marquee and do well with smaller parts as a no-nonsense bar matron and grieving widower (though Williamson's American accent is more Lewisham than Lexington, Kentucky his zeal carries the day).

But the real stars are leather-jacketed ne'er do well Chad (Ben Lewis, an excellent Presley cipher, with sprinklings of James Dean) and love-hungry Girl Friday Natalie (the agreeably feisty Laura Tebbutt).

With their romantic misadventures driving the story, Love Me Tender hopscotches between Presley favourites, among them Hound Dog, Blue Suede Shoes and It's Now Or Never.

There are also several more obscure numbers from rock's most revered canon so for the Elvis neophyte, the production is as much education as celebration.

The tone is knowingly camp throughout and hardcore Elvis fans may be appalled by the lack of reverence - this is assuredly a romp, not a hagiography.

Those seeking nothing more complicated than a good time, however, will likely adore every hip-swivel and lip-curl. Here is a guilty pleasure nobody need feel guilty for enjoying.

Irish Independent

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