Elvis: A Musical Revolution returns to the State Theatre with an all-Australian cast, a tighter show, and brand new music and dance elements guaranteed to get Sydneysiders jiving in the aisles.

The opening night on Friday was packed out as the show’s star Rob Mallett succeeded in capturing Elvis’s magnetism while simultaneously humanising him. In his performance Mallett goes beyond impersonation, nailing the King of Rock’s iconic voice, singing, and dancing. He embodies Presley and rightly deserves the plaudits.

He’s not alone though. Mallett’s fantastic performance is boosted by the standout performances of his castmates, particularly Noni McCallum, who’s turn as Gladys Presley acts as the emotional lynchpin of the first act. 

Rob Mallett and cast are electric in Elvis: A Musical Revolution. Photo: supplied.


Beyond the immensely glittering surface and feel-good swirl of activity, however, the show struggles to build a deeper connection with one of music’s most influential figures. 

The large dance pieces are energetic and complex; a testament to the ability of the cast and ensemble. This particularly extends to Kirby Burgess, who not only serves as assistant choreographer, but also threatens to steal the show in her brief portrayal of film star Ann-Margret. 

The costumes are an obvious highlight, with many of Elvis’s most iconic outfits perfectly recreated, while the show’s simple yet effective staging is another technical highlight. 

Projected images show Elvis’s grander moments in history, and maps the year of each scene, helping audiences follow the show’s non-linear structure.

The use of live footage adds to the show’s dynamism, reminding the audience of the technical here and now, and not becoming mired in retro. An on-stage camera streams its live view of Elvis, giving the audience a unique insight into how TV stations tried to stunt the rebellious influence of the King of Rock by filming him above the waist.

A strong point for the show is how it poignantly acknowledges the influence of African-American gospel, blues, and rock on the development of Elvis’s upbringing and his music. 

While the story can suffer from having too much to tell in too little time, the decision to outline the racism of America before the Civil Rights movement emerged, and how Elvis benefited, is a respectful and important theme, greatly helped by the stellar performances of Jo-Anne Jackson, Joti Gore, and Charlie Williams.

Elvis: A Musical Revolution is at The State Theatre until March 9. Photo: supplied.


However, while the show tackles race issues, it sanitises much of Elvis’s story. 

Priscilla is largely absent from the show, only appearing in a handful of scenes in the second act and despite removing their wedding and divorce, their 10-year difference hangs over each of their scenes. It’s a marked change too from the first iteration of the show, which debuted in Sydney in August, where the relationship played a bigger part.

Furthermore, despite director Alister Smith’s assertion that the production is not a “womb to tomb story”, the show ending on the 1968 comeback special feels misleadingly upbeat as it ignores Elvis’s tragic downfall and death. 

The show’s book, written by Sean Cercone and David Abbinanti, is also a mixed bag. Jumping between moments in Elvis’s life makes some scene transitions feel sudden and muddled which limits the emotional connection audiences can build with Elvis, particularly for younger viewers new to the Elvis mythos. 

Rob Mallett as Elvis in the 1968 Comeback Special scene. Photo: supplied.


The use of his music works to enhance specific moments in Elvis’s life. The 1968 comeback special was the best received part of the show, while, in a montage of Elvis’s hilariously B-grade movies, songs from each film helped make it one of the funnest parts of the musical.

However, the musical’s jukebox-style struggles to create depth within the story or characters. Scenes where Elvis’s music was used to connect us to his emotions, such as the funeral scene that utilises Prayer for a Hymn, were the strongest in the entire production. 

For Elvis fans, Elvis: A Musical Revolution is all you could want in a tribute: a terrific portrayal of the King, 40 favourites, and a fitting testament to a great performer. But for those unfamiliar with his life, or wanting a dissection of his legacy, it’s simply a good time that might leave you wanting more.

Elvis: A Musical Revolution runs until March 9 at The State Theatre, Sydney.

Main photo: supplied.