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Viva Elvis

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It's unprecedented! A seventh in-resident show on the Las Vegas strip is not only unlikely, it's unheard of. But yes, the phantasmagorical circus troupe--Cirque du Soleil--has brought the unparalleled story of Elvis Presley to worshipful heights, and when the hour-and-a-half of showy displays and gravity-sassing leaps, lunges, and death-daring plunges is over, Viva Elvis--playing indefinitely at the Aria Resort and Casino--allows us in the audience of the newly constructed Elvis Presley Theater to be appreciative and thankful for Presley's gifts. At his best and in his prime, Elvis Presley was a singular phenomenon.

Like a Twyla Tharp dance spectacular, the Cirque players, netted together by writer, director, and co-choreographer Vincent Paterson, perform to the music of Elvis Presley, chronicled in such a fashion as to provide a sort of biographical narrative to this man who would be king.. Erich Van Tourneau lends muscular arrangements and musical direction.

Center stage there is a huge and ever-present screen filled with perpetually changing photos and slices of film images that are benchmarks in the ascendency of Elvis Presley to superstardom and beyond. Mashed-up with live Cirque musicians, the horn and percussion additives are especially rousing tweaks to the Elvis vocals.

We hear the early Elvis songs and are delighted to rediscover the primal appeal inherent in "Jailhouse Rock" and "Heartbreak Hotel." The former is performed on the so-called Jailhouse set (designed, along with all other set elements, by Mark Fisher), all sixty-six feet of it. What's more, it's forty feet high and weighs-in at 90,000 pounds. Plus, the set is mobile. Dozens of acrobats and dancers, sporting prison stripes and penal millinery, provide an exuberant exhibition of this jailbird sock-hop.

Another turning-point in the Presley lifetime was his army induction. Here we witness, thanks to aged black & white newsreel footage, the rock 'n roll rebel as he is transformed into an obedient G.I. How surprisingly bittersweet it is. Under a spectacular American flag, made up of BVD underwear and soldier-type long-johns, the Cirque Company performs a boot camp-like routine of rope climbs, bar-pulls and spins, as well as a zip-line descent across the horizontal length of the sizeable stage, that provides for a remarkable series of physical feats, all to the energized cadence of the Elvis baritone belting out "Return to Sender."

A beautiful and soaring act of performance art is conducted by two acrobats spinning and grasping toward and then apart from one another within a huge, floating guitar suspended from the rafters above the stage, like a constellation in the night sky. And it's all done in-sync to Elvis' rendition of the soulful "One Night (with you)"--amounting to a tear-teasing tribute to Elvis' unfulfilled relationship with his monozygotic twin brother, Jesse Garon, who was delivered as a stillbirth thirty-five minutes before Elvis was born.

With dazzling costumes by Stefano Canulli ranging from padded-shoulder suit coats to high-collard rhinestone jumpsuits and Mark Brickman's lighting that becomes a spectacle in itself (the colored silhouettes of the swinging sixties Elvis are priceless), Viva Elvis is the perfect Vegas entertainment: a pageant dedicated to the quintessential Vegas entertainer, Elvis Presley. Long live The King.

Viva Elvis will be performed indefinitely Friday through Tuesday at 7:00 pm & 9:30 pm in the Elvis Presley Theater at the Aria Resort and Casino, Las Vegas. There will be no shows on Wednesdays or Thursdays. For reservations, dial (877)253-5847 or (702)531-2031. For online ticketing, visit



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.