“The music transcends all generations.” Lori Russo, singer-actress
A multimedia stage production, Elvis Lives features four Elvis Presleys, one Ann-Margret, dancers, musicians, audio of Presley that serves to link segments of the show and images from the Graceland archives.
Elvis Lives is visiting 60 cities in the 2012-2013 season. The show covers four eras of Presley’s career, the 1950s, early ’60s, his 1968 comeback and the ’70s.
Presley spent much of the ’60s making movies. Kevin Mills plays the movie-era Presley and Lori Russo joins him for re-creations of Presley and Ann-Margret’s co-starring roles in 1964’s Viva Las Vegas.
Mills and Russo perform a production number based on Viva Las Vegas and sing duets that Presley and Ann-Margret might have sung had they actually worked together on a Las Vegas stage.
“We have this banter back and forth,” Russo said. “We’re re-creating the relationship they had, for fans who would have liked to have seen them together on stage. We change that up every night, in the moment, to keep it fun and fresh.”
Presley and Ann-Margret had both a professional relationship via Viva Las Vegas and a romantic relationship that lasted for years.
“The chemistry between them was really honest and organic,” Russo said. “They enjoyed performing together and obviously cared about each other. That translated onto the screen and into their personal life.”
Studying singer-actress Ann-Margret’s films helped Russo, a singer-actress from Hollywood, Calif., become a successful tribute artist who portrays Ann-Margret in Las Vegas and on tour. She does other theater work as well. Mills, a Toronto resident who grew up in New York and Philadelphia, won second and third place in the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Memphis.
“You have to work on the moves and mannerisms,” Russo said of their tribute artist work. “We try to sing like them and create three-dimensional persons the best we can and as authentically as we can.”
“We’re not mimicking a hundred percent of the character,” Mills added. “We add our own little twists. And it’s a great experience for a tribute artist like myself, doing Elvis, to work with Lori. She is the Ann-Margret of the business.”
Presley’s enduring popularity creates an enthusiastic market for shows such as Elvis Lives.
“We get standing ovations every night,” Russo said. “The show has historical, nostalgic and emotional qualities. People are surprised. It takes them on a journey.”
If Presley had lived, Mills speculated, he may well have become a producer and director.
“He’d probably have his own record label,” Mills said.
Or he might be the king of Las Vegas.
“The music transcends all generations,” Russo said. “He didn’t write his music, but he had such an interesting take on it. He was such a down to earth, humble, everyman’s man. When people watched him or listened to him, they felt like he was singing to or talking right to them.”