REVIEW – The King and Me, The West Australian, 18th February 2015

REVIEW | The King and Me

The West Australian
February 18, 2015, 11:50 am

The King and Me ***½
Velvet Lounge | Review by Mark Naglazas

There’s always been something of the fanboy about Dave Warner, who whose earliest incarnation was an inspired mashup of his cheeky suburban boy persona with the angry, existential chic of Lou Reed.

Dave Warner. Picture: Sharon Morris

Decades later Warner is still playing tribute to the artists who shaped him, this time channeling the greatest of all swivel-hipped rock singers, Elvis Presley. Or is that Elvira Presley?

In his show for Fringe World, The King and Me, The Boy From Bicton’s on-stage alter-ego, a sad sack low-rent cabaret performer named Craig Nelson, is approached an obsessed fan named Elvira who urges him to enter an Elvis impersonation competition at the casino.

However, the recently cuckolded Craig is no mood to don the black wig and white jump suit and, besides, he lacks the chops. “I’ve seen better moves on a Zimmer frame,” scoffs Caitlin Beresford-Ord’s sassy Elvira.

But Elvira is determined to unleash Craig’s inner Elvis as it turns out she’s the ghost of The King. Elvis has taken over the body of a recently murdered woman and needs him to win the competition to get him out of a Faustian contract he signed with the Devil at the beginning of his career (shades of bluesman Robert Johnson).

That’s a lot of plot for a one-hour show – so much you suspect it has been reworked from one of the prolific Warner’s novels or movie projects.

But it’s a fun set-up that paves the way for Warner and Beresford-Ord to unleash their own inner Elvises in a series of rousing, inventive Warner-penned faux Presley numbers.

It was initially a disappointment that we didn’t get a run through of Presley’s greatest hits (a rights issue, no doubt). However, it takes the emphasis off impersonation and allows us to focus on the comedy and poignancy of a guy who’s spent his life toiling in the shadow of The King.

It also reminds us of the quality of Warner as a songwriter and performer. His voice is still full of vigour and vibrancy and his duets with Beresford-Ord, who is vocal powerhouse with a real feel for rhythm and blues, are the high point of this brisk, lively show.

Less good is the quality of Warner’s storytelling. The idea of a depressed milquetoast wannabe pop star being reinvigorated by his encounter with Elvis is terrific but Warner doesn’t give the narrative a satisfactory shape, alluding to his growth but not really showing it.

How much fun it would have been if the ghost of Elvis had left the murdered woman’s body and climbed inside of Craig during his confrontation with the unfaithful Leanne? He would have told her where she could take her cheatin’ heart.

The King and Me is at 9.30pm until Sunday at the Velvet Lounge, 639 Beaufort Street, Mt Lawley.

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