The latest Elvis musical documents the King's 1960s comeback, after a fallow period in his musical career in which he concentrated on churning out some terrible Hollywood films. This Is Elvis features 30 of Presley's greatest hits, including "Heartbreak Hotel", "Love Me Tender", "Jailhouse Rock" and "Are You Lonesome Tonight?". It is interspersed with key moments that led up to the spectacular 1968 TV special on NBC, when a leather-clad Elvis was reinstated as the king of rock'n'roll, and his momentous return to the stage in a Las Vegas concert in 1969.
The musical dramatises the arguments between Presley and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, his increasing distance from his wife, Priscilla, and rehearsal sessions with his new musicians as he confronts his fear of performing after so long away from live work.
Simon Bowman first played a younger Elvis in 1985 opposite Martin Shaw, who played the older Elvis in Alan Bleasdale's play Are You Lonesome Tonight?. "I am not an Elvis impersonator; I am an actor," says Bowman. "I got the part because Martin and I did so much research watching Elvis videos because there were a couple of songs we had to do, that they had me in mind when this part came up. You never know what is around the corner."
Bowman is no stranger to the musical genre, having been in Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Saigon. He recently performed in a workshop for Trevor Nunn's forthcoming production of Gone With The Wind. "I have been asked to play Rhett Butler," he says.
"I wear a white jump suit for Elvis's return to the stage and bash out 20 songs in the second half. It is fairly tiring," says Bowman. "Elvis was terrified about his comeback. He was confused and frightened - because he had lost his mother in that time - and he was petrified of going back on stage. This is something I can get my teeth into."
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