Elvis Stage Show Wins Rave Reviews:

"Blue Suede Shoes" (The Elvis Ballet)

ELVIS ELECTRIFYING CLEVELAND BALLET! by John Herrington WMV Web News Cleveland Story filed May 2, 1996

"Jammin' in the aisles" may not be a descriptive that one usually associates with the Cleveland Ballet, but Company Artistic Director Dennis Nahat says that's exactly what he expects to happen beginning May 24 on Playhouse Square.


That's when "Blue Suede Shoes"--it's Elvis Presley music in an 80-minute ballet--opens at the State Theater. Nahat, after 20 months of work on the production, says, "Everyone's going to be jammin' in the aisles! I'm sure of it! I already am jammin' in the aisles!"

Nahat conceived "Blue Suede Shoes" as a "feel good" production. He choreographed it; he directs it, and he has the musical arrangements of award-winning composer William Ross ("Forrest Gump," "The Bodyguard"), and the expertise of Hollywood costume and set designer Bob Mackie (six Emmy Awards, three Academy Awards) to go with 36 Presley songs and the ballet and gymnastic talent of 49 dancers.

The world premiere of "Blue Suede Shoes" will cover 16 performances between May 24 and June 7, with official opening night scheduled for May 29. It will be the finale of the Ballet's 20th anniversary season. It's a musical double-banger, as Bob Mackie says: "A lot of poeple will come to the theater who have never seen professional ballet before. But, they'll come because they love Elvis and because they'll be curious. They'll know it can't be 'Swan Lake.' One thing for sure: it won't be your typical night at the ballet!" And that's for sure!

CLEVELAND BALLET TO BOOGIE by John Herrington WMV Web News Cleveland Story filed May 11, 1996 "Blue Suede Shoes" begins rocking the State Theater May 24.

The character of Elvis won't appear on stage, but the spirit of "the King" certainly will be part of the Cleveland Ballet's world premiere production. Thirty-six Presley songs will highlight the Cleveland Ballet's world premiere production. Conceived and choreographed by Ballet Artistic Director Dennis Nahat, the rock-and-roll ballet takes three mid-1950's buddies (in their blue suede shoes, natch!) from the high school to the hot dog drive-in, through graduation and into the army. They roll through an age of innocence to the rocky social changes of the 1960s and into the rise of disco in the '70s.

This is ballet? Tutti Frutti done in toe shoes? Bossa Nova Baby in a tutu? Celebrated Hollywood designer Bob Mackie, who created costumes and sets, says, "One thing for sure, it won't be your typical night at the ballet." But he also says, "People will come who have never seen professional ballet before because they love Elvis and because they'll be curious."

Mackie will feed that curiousity with seven big production scenes that include the high school and car-hop, a sexy black and red jail house ("Jail House Rock"), a wild disco dance club, and lotsa' legs and feet shod in blue suede shoes. Nahat says all the songs will connect to one another as though written for a scenario. Award-winning Hollywood composer William Ross has the job of tying all the musical arrangements and transition themes together.

The Ballet's "New Dance Ventures" division is presenting "Blue Suede Shoes." Its producer, David Oakland, sees this show introducing "...dance to a very broad range of people, while simultaneously drawing on the traditional ballet audience." Oakland believes "the appeal of Presley's music, coupled with the creation of this innovative and spectacular production should be very attractive to venues across the country and abroad."

Out-of-Cleveland staging will come, and out-of-town interest is expected to be big for the 16 performances of "Blue Suede Shoes" at the State Theater on Playhouse Square. It previews May 24-27 with the official opening night on Wednesday, May 29.

PRISCILLA PRESLEY BOOSTS CLEVELAND BALLET by John Herrington WMV Web News Cleveland Story filed May 31, 1996

Superlatives may not come easily to critics, but the Cleveland Ballet's production of "Blue Suede Shoes" is drawing these accolades: "A hit." "The dancing is terrific." "Fabulous..." costumes and sets. "Big, glitzy and fun."

Cleveland Plain Dealer dance critic Wilma Salisbury wrote: "Rarely has there been so much spontaneous applause during a Cleveland Ballet performance." It's a rock ballet set to Elvis Presley music, and Priscilla Presley was among those joining in that applause. Those with her in her State Theater box at the world premiere opening said that Presley's former wife, "...laughed a lot, clapped a lot, and even cried during some of the scenes."

She is president of Elvis Presley Enterprises and she gave Cleveland Ballet permission to use the 36 Presley songs, original master recordings by the rock-and-roll icon. It is a big production, with "big" in capital $-signs: a million-dollar spectacle of Bob Mackie costume and set designs, William Ross orchestration, Christina Giannelli lighting, and high-energy performance by the Ballet dancers.

Cleveland Ballet artistic director Dennis Nahat conceived the show and choreographed it. At the Ballet's Playhouse Square offices, Nahat these days is described as, "One big walking grin." David Oakland is smiling, too; he's president of "New Dance Ventures," the division of the Cleveland Ballet that is presenting "Blue Suede Shoes."

To cover budget, "Blue Suede Shoes" had to do $350,000 in ticket sales. Sales already are above half-a-million dollars, 150 percent of the goal. They could approach $800,000 before the show closes here June 7. The day after the official world premiere opening, there was a record single-day ticket sale of $72,000. Broken down into a 10-hour sales day, that's 7,000 tickets sold every hour.

The good reviews given the show also are expected to boost ticket sales, already described as "going through the roof." The future? "Blue Suede Shoes" returns to the Cleveland stage next April, then goes on the road to the new opera house in Detroit and then to San Jose, the California city that shares the Ballet's identity and that provided investors for this production.

Thirty-five presenters and promoters of ballet from across the country were here for the opening. It is not out of the question that "Blue Suede Shoes" could play all 35 of those venues. One ballet office spokesperson said, "Blue Suede Shoes could play for the next three to five years." That kind of acceptance would be emphasis to a Presley favorite, "Love Me Tender.

CLEVELAND BALLET GETS KICK FROM ELVIS by John Herrington WMV Web News Cleveland Story filed June 8, 1996 The Cleveland Ballet has ended its 20th anniversary season. One ballet spokesman called the season, "...a realization of the opportunity to pay homage to such staples as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, a chance to celebrate our history, and an ability to now point toward the future."

The last part of the statement, about pointing "...toward the future," is result of the spectacular acceptance of the presentation of "Blue Suede Shoes." The rock-and-roll ballet, created and choreographed by artistic director Dennis Nahat, closed Friday, June 7, as a box office hit that literally, spokesman Todd Stuart says, "gives the Ballet the fiscal ability to continue."

The Elvis Presley ballet, as it has been called, was a big ($1.1 million) show with fantastic sets and costumes by Hollywood designer Bob Mackie and orchestration by composer William Ross. And, it was big in ticket sales: in the area of $700,000, with a final figure still being calculated. They had set a $350,000 ticket sales goal. "Blue Suede Shoes" isn't finished. A national tour is in the works with bookings expected in several cities as early as the 1997-98 season. One of those possible cities is Memphis.

The 20th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death will be commemorated there next year. The production has been called a show business mix of "the best of Broadway, the best of dance, and the best of rock and roll." It will play here again next April, then go to the new opera house in Detroit and then to the Ballet's second home in San Jose, Calif.

Earlier in the year, of course, Cleveland Ballet marked its 20 years of dance history with a big anniversary gala. Just before the Cleveland Ballet egg was finally hatched in 1976, Plain Dealer dance critic Wilma Salisbury wrote, "...already the image of the company-to-be is beginning to take shape.

Clearly, the Cleveland company will not be an esoteric ensemble devoted exclusively to one style of dance. Rather, it will be a repertory company: young, eclectic, and popular." "Blue Suede Shoes" certainly is proof that it is that.