Jailhouse Rock, the Musical…notes

Last July I received a call from America from a lady called Rene Sheridan. She was on the phone for 1.5 hours and told me she had bought the theatrical rights from MGM for the stage version of “Jailhouse Rock”. But, she was having problems with EPE who would not release the songs from the movie for her Musical, especially the main song, “Jailhouse Rock”. There followed many months of discussions and I offered what help and advice I could. Slowly the years of preparation were coming to a conclusion and the show opened in Plymouth, then Manchester. I started to promote the Musical from July 2003, months before anyone even knew it was being launched. Our website and Cyber Newsletters generated interest for the Musical all over the world.

One day Mario (Vince Everett) came into my Elvis Shop on Baker Street and told me he had auditioned for the lead role in “Jailhouse Rock the Musical” and asked whether I could put in a good word for him with the producers and I did. I had seen Mario perform at a show at the old time “Music Hall” in Shoreditch and he was excellent. Mario also was at the opening of our Elvisly Yours shop at 233 Baker Street, London NW1. However, I just learned that Mario was sworn to secrecy and could not even tell me he had got the part until it was officially announced. The producers very kindly provided us with complimentary seats on 31st March as a thank you for the promotion we had given the show. 

Review of “JAILHOUSE ROCK, the MUSICAL”

I had seen great reviews from fans who had seen the show but some of the media were still a little lukewarm. I knew Mario could sing but did not know how well he could act on a London Stage. Every one of our party of ten people came away from the theatre using every possible superlative... amazing, fantastic, wonderful, brilliant, fabulous, spectacular, great ...Even my sister Helen was raving and she has never been to an Elvis show before in her life and is not easy to please. 

I was pleasantly surprised with Mario's acting. He maintained a good accent throughout and was a believable Vince Everett. Considering all the problems the Musical has had with clearance for Elvis' music it still tried to keep to the film’s storyline but in the end it really didn't matter that the Musical did not include “Jailhouse Rock” and other songs by Leiber and Stoller. The show was brilliant without Leiber and Stoller songs and brought in songs of the era that reflected other musical influences on Elvis Presley. Very few Shows in the West End have standing ovations at the end with the audience singing and clapping along to the music!! I know “Jailhouse Rock the Musical” will just run and run.

What I liked about the show was all the cast really seemed to be enjoying themselves and they had already performed a matinee in the afternoon. A wonderful, new star was discovered, Gilz Terera who played an inmate friend of Mario. His amazing enthusiasm kept the whole cast going, a brilliant discovery and brilliant casting. Everyone played their part(s) well and most of the cast had multi-parts. It is interesting to try and work out who played what part. Vince Everett’s lawyer seemed to have four or five different roles. The set was simply magnificent and all the set changes so cleverly arranged. The cast created brilliant sound effects by just banging on or scrapping the bars of the prison cells and banging metal drums.The Musical started slowly and was more like a play explaining the story of Vince Everett who had a quick temper, was from the wrong side of the tracks and got into a fight over his girlfriend, accidentally killing a man and went to jail for manslaughter.

Somehow the music sounded so much louder in the second act. It was the louder volume and mostly Elvis music that got the audience to their feet. I think the show could have a good, strong, loud, Elvis Presley all cast number near the beginning as it took a while for the audience to get going and to even clap to the early songs.  Gilz Terera led a number of black and white inmates with an accapello version of “Pretty Little Angel Eyes”. This 'showstopper' was just wonderful and well worth the price of admission alone and essentially kicked start the show. Can a showstopper kickstart a show one asks ? ...see the show and you will know what I mean.
Mario really came into his own when he put on a black suit and was doing what he was most comfortable with...his tribute to Elvis Show. His voice filled the theatre with great renditions of “Suspicious Minds”, “Burning Love” and “The Wonder of You”. I think Mario needs to move more like the early Elvis with the 50's songs. He should adopt those sexy, provocative hip and pelvic movements while hugging the microphone stand. This is the purpose of Preview Shows to perfect the show for when it officially opens. What is a great show will just get better and better as the producers and directors hone the brilliant cast to even more perfection. The Previews run at the Piccadilly Theatre, Denman Street London W1 until the official Grand Opening on April 19th 2004.

“Jailhouse Rock the Musical is not only a fine Show but also an educational tour of Music through Soul, Blues, R&B, Hillbilly, Country and Rock 'n' Roll. There should be special school offers for matinee performances and every effort must be made to make every school in Britain aware of the educational value of seeing the Musical. It really is a musical play and unlike the film the evil face of prejudice is revealed against the black inmates as well as the brutal elements of the American Prison System. A school could do a whole year-long project based on “Jailhouse Rock the Musical” because it covers so many elements of life, relationships, prison, bigotry, hatred, love but no sex and such wonderful music that helped to mould Elvis Presley. It is an educational as well as musical journey throughout. Just when you thought it was the end of the show and the audience was waiting for the curtains to open for an encore with further clapping and cheering Mario came out alone from behind the curtain and thanked every one for coming and asked if the audience wanted to hear more…followed by great applause and screams.

 He sang a song solo with the curtain still behind him. It is brilliant psychology because the curtain then opened and the full cast were on the stage singing and playing the finale, “Tutti Frutti”. The whole audience rose to their feet, even my sister Helen, to join in singing, dancing and clapping along. There was a blast of sound from the stage with every type of instrument played and every metal drum, prison bar being banged and scrapped. It was just a brilliant end to a really wonderful show.

At the end of the Show I kept on asking myself what the hell are Leiber and Stoller, Gary Hovey, Jack Soden and Lisa Marie Presley doing, denying the right for the cast to perform the song, "Jailhouse Rock" in "Jailhouse Rock the Musical”? Hovey and Soden don’t give a damn about Elvis Presley but Lisa Marie Presley should be ashamed of herself for trying to destroy her father’s musical legacy. For Leiber and Stoller there is no excuse. They wrote their songs for the world to hear and are now denying millions the right and joy of hearing “Jailhouse Rock” on the world’s stage. Apparently, the feeble excuse given by EPE is that they are doing their own Musical but I have been told their musical will not even feature “Jailhouse Rock”.

Do you know what, it doesn’t matter? The Musical is so good even without “Jailhouse Rock” that you come away from the theatre with a big smile on your face, feeling so happy, so elated and you realise those awful “Blue Meanies of Memphis” have failed and a shame on all their heads!
Every Elvis fan in the world must see “Jailhouse Rock, the Musical” and take any non-believing family and friends with them and they will be turned on to…Elvis.

Do yourself a favour…book your tickets TODAY!

Tickets: 0870 060 6630

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Information on Jailhouse Rock (archive)


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