A hound dog in a bear market
Elvis impersonator Trent Carlini hopes the King’s appeal is impervious to the economy
Thu, Apr 30, 2009 (midnight)
I just can’t help believing,” Elvis once famously sang. And that is how Trent Carlini is approaching launching his new show, Elvolution, at the Steve Wyrick Theatre in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood.
At first I thought Carlini must know something I did not know about the appeal of Elvis, or about the state of Las Vegas entertainment on the Strip. After all, why else risk launching the only ticketed Elvis show currently on the Strip in the midst of the worst recession in Vegas history? From large shows to small shows to legendary shows, this has been a horrible time for Vegas entertainment. An Evening at La Cage is only one example of a show relying heavily on celebrity impersonation that closed recently. And there are plenty of Elvii in Vegas to be seen for free—dealing cards, singing songs, standing on the Strip taking pictures with tourists for tips, even in statue form at the Hilton. But Carlini simply has the confidence of the King that he can pull off a successful show now.
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He repeats my question on the topic with incredulity: “Why should I take the risk in this economy? I kind of look at it as an opportunity in an economy that is hurt right now to stimulate people with a great show. Maybe it is a bad business decision, or maybe it is a good one. But I don’t think like that.”
As for the other Elvis impersonators giving the King away for free, Carlini believes that he has an edge thanks to accomplishments such as winning the 2007 television show The Next Best Thing by beating, according to footage shown to the audience in Elvolution, a Frank Sinatra impersonator. “There are a lot of Trent Carlini fans out there,” he says. Those fans will be excited to know that by summer he plans to add to the show songs Elvis never actually performed, including “Sweet Home Alabama.”
Though he mostly performs alone to backing tapes, Carlini says that is a choice he made not for budgetary reasons but to create an “intimate” show. He wanted the feel of just the King facing the audience. But according to Carlini, that intimacy is an illusion—the show actually employs about 30 people. He adds: “I just need everyone’s support. As you said, the economy is bad, and people should think about that and help out.”
And Carlini is not alone in believing the appeal of Elvis in Vegas will always be timely regardless of the economy. The biggest entertainment company in Vegas, Cirque du Soleil, is also working on an Elvis-themed show at CityCenter. “Elvis is synonymous with Las Vegas,” Carlini says.