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The King has left the Weidner Center

Alli Rivera, Entertainment Writer
March 27, 2013
Filed under Entertainment

The legendary work of Elvis Presley, the King and man of erotic hip gyrating and broad sideburns, continues to excite and entertain audiences through tribute artists.

“Elvis Lives – The Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Event” shook up the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts March 21, bringing Presley’s music and onstage charisma to life with a line-up of King impersonators.

“My entire family got to see Elvis in concert in 1977 except me,” said Kathy Schille audience member Moline Illinois. “I felt like I finally got my chance to see the King.”

Audience members watched four Elvis impersonators as they re-enacted the eras of the King. Video streamed in between sets, showing real footage and audio of the King.

Fans couldn’t help falling in love with Presley. He was signed to Sun Records Label in 1945, and by 1956, he was an international sensation. The big hunk o’ love performed numerous live concerts, many making record-breaking sales.

Presley also received many gold, platinum and multiplatinum records from American sales alone, along with three Grammy Awards and 14 other nominations.  Presley had a substantial television career as well. He starred in 33 films and made appearances on various shows. Presley also served in the U.S. Army and at the Weidner show, the impersonator opened the back of his leather cape to reveal an eagle while he dedicated a song to attending veterans.

“The show was fantastic,” said Katie Nohre UW-Green Bay junior business administration major. “I like how they went through the stages of his performing life. Each Elvis connected with the audience in different ways. My favorite Elvis wore the black leather suit. The suit along with his shaking hips caught and tightly held my attention.”

The “Elvis Lives” show features many Elvis impersonators, including Bill Cherry, Leo Days, Ben Klein and Kevin Mills.  The last member to make up the group is Lori Russo, who portrays television and music icon Ann Margret, who was  known as the female Elvis because of their similar styles.

“Everyone was spot on in looks, sound and mannerisms,” Schille said. “It was the best show ever.”

Cherry is nationally recognized as the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest winner from 2009. He is the son of a Pentecostal minister, which paved the way for his love of southern gospel music.

“Performing a tribute to the greatest entertainer the world has ever known is a dream come true,” Cherry said.

Fellow impersonator Days is one of the few Elvis tribute artists who perform all three eras of Elvis’ music. These include the rock ‘n’ roll ‘50s, the ‘60s and the Vegas years of the ‘70s. Days won his first Elvis tribute artist contest when he was 15 years old. Some of Days’ performance venues include casinos, theaters, cruise ships and corporate events. Days also plays the guitar and piano.

Klein, started singing gospel music in choir and has been performing professionally since 2002. Klein headlined Carnival Cruise Line’s first Elvis Cruise ship in 2007. Klein won the 2010 Collingwood Elvis Festival Gospel Competition and, most recently, received first runner up in the 2011 Ultimate Elvis Competition hosted by another Presley impersonator.

Another authentic portrayal of Presley comes from Mills. His talent and charisma made him one of the most popular and sought-after performers. He started his career at the world championship Images of The King at the Fourth Annual Elvis Tribute artist contest in Memphis, where he was crowned. In 2007, he was named Grand Champion onboard the Ultimate Elvis Cruise. He has performed at the presidential inauguration for Bill Clinton, the Taj Mahal, The Spirit of America Tour, the 2012 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Tour and many other places.

Joining the Elvis impersonators on stage, Ann Margaret is portrayed by Russo, an award-winning actress who has worked in many different areas of entertainment for more than 25 years. She won an Elly Award for Best Actress in the show “Love, Isadora.” While performing in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, people noticed her resemblance to Ann Margret. Since then, Russo spent the past 13 years performing her own Ann-Margret tribute, and in 1955, she appeared on “The Tonight Show.”

Together, the group presents a production that allows audiences to see the musical charisma of the King again. From “Heartbreak Hotel” to “Jailhouse Rock,” “Elvis Lives” brings audiences back to the hip swinging days of the onstage sex appeal Presley is still famous for.

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