By Tulis McCallThe good news here is that Attack of the Elvis Impersonators features an excellent cast that has more enthusiasm per square inch than a car full of clowns at Cirque du Soleil. The bad news is that this is the end of the good news.
The musical’s story takes place somewhere nearby, beginning with Madison Square Garden, where Prissy (Laura Woyasz) is reporting live from ZONK-TV on the concert of Drac Frenzy (Eric Sciotto) who is beginning his “Cracked Cranium World Tour” with his backup singers The Black Widows. Drac’s MO is all about skeletons and bones. He is sort of modern-emaciated grunge, sports long hair insured by Lloyds of London, has a great voice and lots of fans who lust after him. Oh yeah, he has a drinking problem on account of his heavy schedule.
He also has a good childhood friend Matt (Curtis Wiley who is excellent in spite of this character being an enormous black stereotype) who not only brings Prissy into Drac’s dressing room and life, he brings a locket that Drac owned as a child. Legend has it that Elvis appeared to him one night and gave him the locket. This is all he needs to turn his life around, break his contract, ditch his band and become an Elvis Impersonator.
At the Grammy Awards Drac is presented with 10 Grammys for, well, everything. It is here he reveals his new identity. Soon teenagers all over the country are switching from grunge to 1950’s wear. Drac returns to his home town, Milwaukee, where he serenades his costumed fans, now wearing cheese heads. By this time Prissy has admitted she is in love with Drac and, urged on by her boss Sheila (Badia Farha – another excellent performance in a black stereotype role) and good old Matt, she follows Drac to Graceland to declare her love and gift him with a song she wrote for him. Prissy arrives just in time to see Drac become possessed (by the power of ye olde locket) with the spirit of Elvis. Drac literally becomes Elvis on the spot, and the first bit of business he takes care of is to propose to Prissy who is Pricilla (get it)? The two take off on their journey to spread Elvis’s message – The Word of The Hound Dog.
Lurking in the background is a malevolent Anti-Christ/ Oonga Boonga Moonga Sahna (a very funny Jim Borstelmann) who is ready to take Elvis and all his little friends d-o-w-n.
The second act finds the friendly friends producing sequels to Elvis movies. “Girls, Girls, Girls” will become “Dogs, Dogs, Dogs” because, as Elvis says, a dog is the closest thing we have to God. After all, Dog is God spelled backwards. They sing many an anthem to Hound Dogs and create HDTV – Hound Dog TV. The frenzy for Elvis results in Graceland declaring itself a country and states seceding to join in. Elvis soon becomes the target of the religious folks who never liked him anyway. In the background, however, The Anti-Christ becomes involved because he cannot stand to be ignored. During Elvis and Prissy’s marriage ceremony he masquerades as the wedding officiant and kidnaps Prissy.
There follows a desert battle of enormous proportions. Families are reunited. Celestial beings appear and disappear. Everyone is transported to Satania where Drac refuses an invitation to join the Anti-Christ. Fisticuffs ensue. A missile is exploded offshore. The Anti-Christ comes over to the light side and Planet Earth is renamed Graceland. World peace having been secured, Elvis is free to leave the building which, in this case, is Drac’s body. Everyone is happy and Drac and Prissy are free to go off and have a litter. And, no, I did not make that up.
As to the Attack of the Elvis Impersonators – well it never happens. The impersonators do appear in some seriously frightening Elvis masks, but I missed the Attack part. As I said, this is a talented group of performers and musicians. In addition, there was a ton of effort put into this production – just the special effects and sound alone are impressive. And you can feel the enthusiasm among the cast and crew. Everyone is giving it everything they have. Still, the level of storytelling only achieves that of a college spoof. The kind where everyone is laughing, including the performers, because they are having fun presenting this preposterous story. Where the performance is the event. The story is ancillary. Like the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I have no idea what that movie is about. But Tim Curry’s performance still takes up space in my brain – rent free. This, in fact might be a direction for the creative team to consider.
I am not about to tell you that there is a level of Off Broadway theatre to which everyone must adhere, because I have seen too much crap to believe this is so. Attack of the Elvis Impersonators is not crap. But it is not an engaging show either. As hard as these performers work, the material never gels and as a result we never receive what the creators intended.
ATTACK OF THE ELVIS IMPERSONATORS – Book, Music, Lyrics By Lory Lazarus, Directed By Don Stephenson, Choreography By Melissa Zaremba, Music Direction, Arrangements And Orchestrations By Benjamin Rauhala
Eric Sciotto as Drac Frenzie, Laura Woyasz as Prissy Bordeaux, Curtis Wiley as Matt Shadow, Michael Biren, Jim Borstelmann, Jesse Carrey Beaver, Badia Farha, Warren Kelley, Jeff Kready, Whit K. Lee, Alexandra Palkovic, Emily Jeanne Phillips, Catherine Walker, Jayme Wappe.
The creative team include s Paul Tate dePoo III (set), Tracy Christensen (costumes), Travis McHale (lights), Josh Liebert (sound) and Shawn Duan ( projections ). The music team includes Jeremy Yaddow, Steve Marks, Mark McCarron .
Attack of the Elvis Impersonators plays Thursdays at 8 :00 p.m., Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 3:00 p.m. & 7: 30 p.m., and Mondays at 8 :00 p.m. (There are no Tuesday or Wednesday performances.) Tickets for Attack of the Elvis Imperson ators are priced at $79 with Premium Seats available at $99. Tickets may be purchased at Telecharge.com / 212 – 239 – 6200