Just a day before what would’ve been Elvis Presley’s 82nd birthday, a bunch of impersonators, direct collaborators and more than 2,000 fans congregated at the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville for The Elvis Tribute Artist Spectacular. While the annual event always makes quite a splash throughout Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland, this year marked both the show’s 30th anniversary and a chance to cheer the long standing venue being saved from the wrecking ball (which was previously threatened by construction).
At the top of part two, The Sweet Inspirations joyfully replicated their R&B smash “Sweet Inspiration,” before resuming a backing role that first began with member Estelle Brown accompanying the actual “King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll” for more than 1,000 performances!
As for the entertainment itself, this year’s installment kicked off with some hymns from The Blackwood Quartet, who serve as the current generation’s extension of Elvis’ favorite gospel group, The Blackwood Brothers. From there, Cody Ray Slaughter (fresh off Broadway’s “Million Dollar Quartet”) swiveled and strutted to Presley’s early rock n’ roll years, injecting style and precision into “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Don’t Be Cruel” (to name a few).
Chicago’s very own Rick Saucedo, a fellow Broadway star in “Elvis- The Legend Lives” and one of world’s very first impersonators, then took faithful to the movies for the carefree fun of “Return To Sender” and “Viva Las Vegas” (amongst others). To close out the first half, Ryan Pelton (from the movie “The Identical”) gave the crowd some innovative excerpts from “The ‘68 Comeback Special,” revving up his sex appeal as The Fabulous Ambassadors Band (who ably backed all the acts) cranked up the eclectic beats.
At the top of part two, The Sweet Inspirations joyfully replicated their R&B smash “Sweet Inspiration,” before resuming a backing role that first began with member Estelle Brown accompanying the actual “King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll” for more than 1,000 performances! Elvis Presley Enterprises’ “First Ever Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist” Shawn Klush also kept the “Burning Love” going well into the evening with a “concert years” retrospective, respectfully upholding a legacy that has no fear of ever fading away thanks to the entire world’s constant adoration for music’s most treasured game-changer and rule breaker.
For additional information on The Elvis Tribute Artist Spectacular, visit ElvisBirthdayTribute.com.
Upcoming concert highlights at the Star Plaza Theatre include Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, The Buckinghams and The Grass Roots (Jan. 21); Tyrese and Eric Benet (Feb. 10); Dennis DeYoung (Feb. 11); The Fab Four (Feb. 12); Tesla (Feb. 18) and The 13th Chi-town Blues Festival (Mar. 4). For additional details, visit StarPlazaTheatre.com.