Ah, the Elvis impersonator. Is there any more tried-and-true symbol of Vegas now that the Rat Pack has passed on to that great Hotel and Casino in the sky?
You can stumble on an Elvis Presley impersonator anywhere on the strip. For my money, there are two ways to get your Elvis on in Sin City. Either get married to a stranger at the Little Vegas Chapel; or see world-class ETA Travis Allen jumpsuit up and perform “All Shook Up” at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, the only all-Elvis revue at a major Vegas hotel in 2018.
“ETA” is the abbreviation for “Elvis Tribute Artist.” Yes, that’s a thing, so don’t mistake that for “Estimated Time of Apocalypse.” These card-carrying professionals make their full-time living impersonating Mr. Presley; the industry has existed since Elvis himself walked the earth, with Vegas as its Mecca. All ETAs swivel their hips toward Vegas.
Only the best of the best can claim the brass ring of a class-A residency, an honor shared with Cirque du Soleil and Penn & Teller. Allen earns his keep with a tour-de-force of Presleyan verisimilitude. (Is Presleyan a word? Well, it is now.) The hip twists, the lip curl, the drawling voice and honey baritone all put you right there in the pocket of the King. Down-and-dirty with a three-piece backing band, Allen gives you all the Elvis you’ve been dreaming of.
Maybe he could give a little more … at sixty minutes, the show ends a bit too early. That’s a compliment, right? To leave wanting more? If not, it’s just a rush job. Elvis had a career that could fill ninety minutes and then some. That being said, the tickets start at a reasonable $40, and the kids can definitely sit through it.
Allen nails the hits with gusto – “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog,” “Suspicious Minds,” “All Shook Up,” “Viva Las Vegas,” “Love Me Tender,” and so on. He makes one costume change. Kicking off the show in a shiny gold jacket, a restrained greaser mop on his head, Allen presents Elvis in his younger rockabilly days, zesty and sexy and full of rakish charm.
There is a brief intermission, covered by comedian Rich Natole, whose impersonations of Sammy Davis Jr. and other deceased Vegas personalities are hit-or-miss. Then, like a rhinestone peacock, Allen returns to the stage dudded out in full latter-day Elvis glory. The studded white jumpsuit that competes with the Wynn Hotel for the honor of “Most Lavish Attention-Suck. The massive pompadour wig that could double as a batting helmet. The just-for-show belt with a gold buckle that could knock out a bear – and you know Elvis would have tried.
Befitting his high achievement in ETA-dom, Allen is cheeky but reverent. He cracks jokes, but not at the expense of his source material. Frankly, just about any joke, spoken cocksure with an Elvis drawl by a charismatic performer, is going to land hard. Allen carries the weight of a heavy crown – not just the legacy of the King himself, but the legacy of the Elvis impersonator as a Las Vegas staple. Rejoice, loyal subjects – Allen carries it with grace … almost as if he were from a Land of Grace.
Verdict: A little short, but “All Shook Up” at Planet Hollywood is a must-see for Vegas-faring Elvis Presley fans. These 2018 shows sell out, so buy your ticket early, baby.