As an authentic Elvis concertgoer at two of his Florida concerts at Tampa’s Curtis Hixon and the Lakeland Civic Theatre, as well as residing here when he starred in the movie “Follow That Dream,” filmed in Inglis-Yankeetown, Crystal River and Inverness, it was such a treasure to attend the Art Center’s memory-making production of “Elvis Has Left The Building” last week. Written by V. Cate and Duke Ernsberger and directed by Missy Mullins, the two-act play captured the essence of Elvis perfectly with the mannerisms and body language of the two main characters: the Colonel, superbly played by “Doc” Weingarten; and the wannabe Elvis, played authentically by Kyle Flanagan, as Roscoe.
Kudos to Doc for his portrayal of the Colonel, the voluminous lines he executed with the flair of the media’s continuous description of the former circus-barker turned promoter of the “King of Rock ’n’ Roll.” Kudos to Kyle Flanagan, chosen to be the substitute Elvis, when the announcer states, “Elvis has left the building,” as the curtain opens for the Art Center patrons.
With music made famous by Elvis, PowerPoint footage, and innumerable minute details that Elvis fans remember and nostalgia running high throughout, it was a memorable evening filled with humor, awe at the energy of Flanagan, the tenacity of the Colonel coaching Flanagan in the hopes that Flanagan will be a convincing Elvis for his loyal fans who have come to expect nothing but the best in an Elvis concert.
We were hard-pressed to keep from being hypnotized when the Colonel uses his skills on Flanagan, and the cast, and temporarily forgets the key word to bring them in and out of hypnosis.
Applause, applause for Pam Schreck in her role as the Colonel’s secretary with “Yes, Colonel, yes, Colonel,” time and again. She was efficiency personified in her loyal portrayal.
Kudos to the set designers. The entire play takes place in the Colonel’s office with the wall covered with Elvis’ Gold Record No. 1 hits that fans throughout the world thrilled to then and enjoy to this very day.
Jill Tanner, the snoopy reporter, was portrayed to perfection by Loretta Coats. Dubbed the “Mouth of Memphis,” the Colonel described her as a reporter that “all she wants to do is write about things that are nobody’s business.” How true. Think of the many celebrities who have, at one time or another, expressed the same sentiment.
The Colonel is beside himself with the apparent vanishing of Elvis in the wake of his planned appearance at a concert that the Colonel had sold Elvis to pay off a gambling debt that the Colonel owed.
Leanne St. Marie “Alyda,” as the Candy character, in her conference with the Colonel when he confesses his predicament, was priceless. She brought candor, overly-protective concern and loyalty to the Colonel, as well as great karate kicks, which was a genuine hobby of Elvis. The continuous curl of his lip was another sign of the player’s attention to the mannerisms of the Elvis we cherished.
The play portrayed Vegas authentically as well, where Elvis starred for many years along the famed Strip. With references by Candy, there are three things in Vegas to get you in trouble: women, alcohol and gambling — and the latter was what had the Colonel desperate to coach Flanagan to perfection.
The Mafia surrounding gambling casinos was portrayed as well, with the Colonel in hock to Rosello, and lines like “Rosello will break his legs if he, the Colonel, fails to produce Elvis at the opening night at the Golden Horseshoe,” stating that Rosello’s name ends in a vowel. And the Colonel’s line, “He’ll run over the Colonel with is own car and make it look like suicide.” There is only 24 hours until curtain time and the colonel’s only answer is to find an Elvis lookalike.
The Oscar definitely goes to Weingarten. He became the Colonel with his cigar, saying, “Nobody can pull off a snow job like the Colonel.” The way he barked orders, manipulated Flanagan, called up cronies to assist him in his planned ruse, perfected the hypnosis technique, and his optimistic personality in the face of a serious dilemma.
The final scene was priceless with Flanagan appearing at the casino dressed jumpsuit-style as Elvis, singing “Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear to Tread),” “Viva Las Vegas,” and the all-time favorite, “I Don’t Have A Wooden Heart.”
We came away fondly recalling the heyday of Elvis, a simple, poor boy born in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1935 (my birth year), who, with the magical skills of Colonel Parker, rose to worldwide stardom. Elvis, to this day, has wannabes paying tribute to him — often raising funds for many charities. His fans are still listening to his recordings, remembering his “Jailhouse Rock” movie performance, as well as his memorable recording satellite performance of “The Hawaiian Wedding Song,” and, as always, his “Thank you very much.”
Ruth Levins participates in a variety of projects around the community. Let her know about your group’s upcoming activities by writing to P.O. Box 803, Crystal River, FL 34423.