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Elvis Has Arrived In The Mother Lode

Photo provided by Sierra Repertory TheatreEven if you were more than satiated by the recent Hollywoodized telling of the King of Rock N’ Roll’s life story in Elvis the Movie, Sierra Repertory Theatre’s West Coast premiere of Elvis the Musical is a theatre goers’ tribute treat with an interesting twist.

Now playing at Sierra Repertory Theatre in East Sonora through April 2, the show spotlights Taylor Rodriguez, an internationally recognized award-winning Elvis performer and also features 11-year-old local actor Asher Berg as Kid Elvis in an altogether endearing role.

Channeling the spirit of young Elvis the ground-breaking, hip-swiveling hottie, Rodriguez sings and grooves through more than 40 tunes and iconic hits with ease and aplomb, backed up by a more than capable band featuring John Jay Espino, Josh Certo, Bill Stephens and Josh Weeks, who do double-duty playing various characters.

Rodriguez, now in his mid-20s, provides serious creds. He has been singing Elvis songs since the age of nine and in 2019 at the tender age of 21 was named the 21st Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Champion at Graceland in Memphis by Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE). By the way, Elvis the Musical has been endorsed by EPE as an “official biomusical.”

A Star In The Making

Berg, a student at Sonora Elementary, has made jaw-dropping strides since his impressive SRT main stage debut last summer as Flounder in The Little Mermaid the Musical. He also turned in a notable performance as young Tom the orphan in SRT’s holiday production of The Christmas Foundling. As Kid Elvis he embodies the good-natured misfit and mama’s boy who was devoted to helping his dirt-poor family in Tupelo, Mississippi and later in Memphis Tennessee; reading comic book superhero exploits; immersing himself in the gospel and blues music swirling all around him; taking up guitar when his parents gifted him a $12.95 model for his birthday because they couldn’t afford to buy him a bike.

Photo provided by Sierra Repertory TheatreSRT’s now-regular Courtney Glass (Murder On the Orient Express, Shrek, The Christmas Foundling) is both solid and touching as Elvis’s mom Gladys Presley. The rest of the cast members play multiple roles, and all do a wonderful job balancing them with singing and dancing or playing instruments. Shoutouts are in order for Sergio Salinas, Jr. as Sun Records owner Sam Phillips; Camryn Elias (who played Dovie in SRT’s Elf the Musical and Marcy in Dogfight), who is equally entertaining in dual roles as Elvis’s high school sweetheart Dixie and actor Ann-Margret; and in their SRT debuts, Taylor Tveton as Priscilla Presley and Elizabeth Harlen as Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Co-written by Sean Cercone and David Abbinanti (Saturday Night Fever the Musical) with musical arrangements and orchestration by Abbinanti and based on a concept by Floyd Mutrux, Elvis the Musical is directed by SRT Artistic Director Jerry Lee with snappy choreography by SRT Executive Producer Scott Viets.

Evening performances are on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 PM; matinees Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays begin at 2 PM and there are also Wednesday matinee performances at Noon. For more info and tickets, go to https://www.sierrarep.org/ check out our Theatre section here.

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