Elvis Lives On

June 21, 2009

I was living in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1977. Elvis lived there too, but he was, by then, the fat, aging, substance-abusing Elvis, a sad caricature of his former self. I was at work when we heard the news that Elvis had died. He was only 42.

My response? I laughed. The news media seemed to be making such a big deal of Elvis’s death, though he had been a has-been,  to me, at least, for some time. I had never been a huge fan of the young Elvis either.

Gradually, though, the old, drug-impaired Elvis faded from memory, and his music lived on.  We moved to Massachusetts the following year, and returned to visit Memphis about 12 years later and toured Graceland with all the other tourists. The glitzy furnishings in the house were amusing, but the rooms filled with Elvis’s costumes and memorabilia–and rows and rows and rows and rows and rows of gold records were overwhelming. I was impressed, and over the years have come to appreciate Elvis’ music.

Jay Stewart has been impressed, perhaps obsessed, with Elvis for much longer. And he tells his story in his one-man show, “Elvis… The King and Me.”  I went to see it on Friday. In the show, Stewart sings 19 songs that Presley made famous. He is not an Elvis impersonater exactly; what he does in his show is to tell the story of a young man’s first awkward first encounters with girls, at age 13. There is an Elvis Presley song for every emotion, every dream, every proclamation of love, and every heartbreak.

Stewart does a great job on the Presley songs, but he is re-creating the 13-year-old singing the songs as Elvis, not Elvis himself. Stewart does not dress up, and his bald head remains hairless, but he very effectively conveys the way Presley’s songs influenced many of our lives and many of our love stories. And why he deserved those rows of gold records.

The show continues at the Harwich Junior Theater Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 PM on July 3, 4,10, 11, 24, 25, and August 1, 14, 15, 22, 28, 29, as well as Wednesday through Sunday, September 1 though 6.

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