C2 Entertainment seems to have cracked the code of producing a hit show. “Summer of Love”, “Sweet Soul Music”, “Memories of the Rat Pack” are just a few of the Productions that have been created by the team of Chris McHarge and Colin Stewart, shows that are all still running and all still selling out wherever they play!
Last year, The Hudson Village Theatre brought “The Rat Pack” to its prestigious theatre. This summer they are hosting “Blue Suede Shoes: The King, The Colonel, The Memories”.
Kalina Skulska, the theatre’s executive director saw this play two years ago and knew it would be a good fit for Hudson. “We get so many requests for this kind of musical. Maybe it is nostalgia,” says Skulska. With the help of the theatre’s artistic director Heather Markgraff, they have made it happen.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a small town rendition of a “real play” or that this is just another excuse for a guy to put on tights and and sunglasses. Oh no baby, Blue Suede Shoes is the real deal!! This play flows like the Mississippi on a hot sunny day, and no wonder, the cast has given over 300 performances. The shows star, Roy Leblanc, is one of the most sought after Elvis tributes in the world. Some of his credits include, two-time winner of the “Collingwood Competition” and “World’s Finest Elvis tribute in Las Vegas”. When Leblanc takes the stage during the play, the Hudson Theatre does not seem large enough to contain his stage presence, it’s as if Elvis really is “in the building”.
Blue Suede Shoes is the story of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, told through the eyes of his manager Colonel Tom Parker, played by McHarge. It traces the king’s life from his discovery with Sun Records to the spectacular Las Vegas extravaganzas.
I had the chance to sit with the shows director/co-creator Chris McHarge and star Roy Leblanc during the final rehearsal before opening night. Even with what seemed like a million distractions, they were both warm and friendly, often joking between barking out order and singing snips of songs.
Ken Gaucher (KG): How did this play come to be?
Chris McHarge (CM): Colin (the shows musical director and other half of C2) and I had talked about making an Elvis show for years, it was something I always wanted to do. Then one day Collin comes to me and says “Chris, I have found our Elvis”, so I said, I better start writing.
KG: Are you surprised that the show is still going and doing as well as it does?
Roy Leblanc (RL): Not really, once we got it down we knew we had something special. We workshopped it in 2009 and the audience really enjoyed it.
CM: Here are the keys to the shows we produce. They are not just tribute shows, we also tell a story. Live music makes the difference. The audience appreciates the band. It can change the dynamics of the show. Then, try to focus on recreating the music as close as possible to the original music.
KG: How does the audience usually react to the show?
RL: We usually have two different types that come to the show. We have the theatre crowd who are more reserved and polite, then we have the people who come in full Elvis gear (laughing). What’s funny is that usually by the second half everyone is screaming and singing and having a great time.
KG: Do you have a favorite song you like to perform during the show?
RL: When I come back on for the second half of the show we get into Elvis’s gospel period. I can look out into the audience and see different emotions on many of the older people’s faces. These were the people who experienced Elvis. You can see they are remembering some moments from some point in their lives. It’s touching.
KG: Was it a difficult switch, going from performing to acting?
RL: I had acted in school, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch. It was harder remembering where to stand on stage! (laughing). There are so many cues to remember, you have to be here when this light goes on and you have to walk off stage in that directions.
KG: Chris have you been in other C2 plays?
CM: No this is the first one.
KG: Why this one?
CM: I was born and raised in Tennessee. I wanted to play the Colonel. I knew I could nail the part.
Nail it he does. From the Colonel’s limp to the Tennessee accent, the cigar wheeling McHarge delivers a performance that nearly steals the show. He is able to create a character that is both charming and greasy slick simultaneously.
There is one more star of this show that could easily be overlooked but should not be taken for granted. The band behind Leblanc’s Elvis, is outstanding. Colin Stewart on bass, Dean Harrison on Keyboards, John Kenny on guitar and Ted Peacock on drums pull together to make you believe at times you are sitting in Vegas listening to a 20-piece orchestra.
“If you’re looking for trouble, you’ve come to the right place,” and the right place is The Hudson Village Theatre to see “Blue Suede Shoes: the King, the Colonel, the Memories”. If there is an Elvis fan inside you somewhere, and let’s face it, there is a little bit of an Elvis fan in all of us, do yourself a favor and head down to Hudson before Elvis does leaves the building.
Blue Suede Shoes: The King, The Colonel, The Memories is at The Hudson Village Theatre from June 18 to June 29. For ticket and pricing information visit http://www.villagetheatre.ca/, email [email protected], or call the box office at 450-458-5361.