Easy Street will salute Elvis with cabaret


Staff report

YOUNGSTOWN

Easy Street Productions will present “Salute to Elvis: Songs of the King,” a cabaret show, Friday and Saturday in the lobby pavilion of Ford Family Recital Hall in the DeYor Performing Arts Center.

The cast, consisting of Todd Hancock, Natalie Sprouse, Maureen Collins and James McClellan, will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s breakout year of 1956 with songs from his early days as a rebel rocker, as well as hits from his movie career and later concert years in Las Vegas.

The Ford lobby and adjacent Overture Restaurant will be transformed into an intimate cabaret atmosphere for the show. A variety of beer, wine and cocktails will be available, as will a small-plate menu prepared by Chef Jeff Chrystal. The King’s favorite sandwich – peanut butter, banana and bacon – also will be available.

The show begins at 7:30 both nights. Seats are $25; call 330-744-0264 for reservations.

The singer-actors discussed the show in this exchange:

Q. Why put together a salute to Elvis Presley?

Hancock: I guess I felt I owed it to him. For over 30 years I’ve been playing Elvis-type characters on stage from Pharaoh in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” to Elvis Claus in Easy Street’s annual Christmas show “Miracle on Easy Street.” I’ve always tried my best to sound like him, but more often than not my impersonations would poke fun at his image by portraying him as an overweight icon just for laughs. People may believe that I did that out of lack of respect but nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve been an Elvis fan all my life. I wanted to finally put together a concert that honored his incredible legacy of music without all of the jumpsuits, scarves and sunglasses.

Q. When were you first introduced to Elvis Presley’s music?

Sprouse: I was 4 years old when my parents took my sisters and me to the Steel Trolley Diner. I remember sitting at the bar on one of the swivel chairs when from the jukebox came the most soulful, rockin’ voice I’d ever heard. He was wailin’ away on some song about a hound dog cryin’ all the time. I’ve been bitten by the Elvis bug ever since.

Q. What is your favorite Elvis song?

McClellan: My absolute runaway favorite is “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” It’s just so romantic. After that, “Love Me Tender.” And I have to confess, “Old Shep” always gets me.

Q. Have you ever seen any of Elvis’ films and if so, any favorites?

Collins: I seen every movie and loved them all. If I had to pick a favorite it would be “Blue Hawaii.” Although “G.I. Blues” is a sentimental favorite because of the song “Wooden Heart.” My grandma used to sing it to me while in her lap.

Q. What song are you particularly looking forward to singing?

McClellan: Both of my duets with the ladies! In the first set I get to sing “Love Me Tender” with Natalie Sprouse and in the second set “Are You Lonesome Tonight” with Maureen Collins. It’ll be an honor to perform so intimately with both of them!

Q. What songs are you looking forward to hearing your friends perform?

Sprouse: I’m looking forward to Jeff Sanders singing “That’s Alright Mama.” I can’t wait to hear his killer rockabilly guitar licks.

Q. Why do you think Elvis became such an icon and do you think he is truly the King of Rock-n-Roll?

Hancock: Sixty years ago, Elvis set the world on fire. For Elvis Presley, 1956 was a year like no other. He made his first two albums for RCA, starred in his first movie, appeared on national television 11 times and had five No. 1 singles, including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Love Me Tender.” Elvis changed everything. He was then, is now and forever will be, the King of Rock-n-Roll.

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