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Elvis tribute artist returning to Strip

Elvis is back in a new building, and arriving in style means making room for two prop Lear jets backstage.

"I have no idea where he puts his," Trent Carlini says of his new landlord, magician Steve Wyrick. "But I told him, ‘Steve, we’re not married. You have your jet and I’ll have mine.’ "

Popular Elvis impersonator Carlini officially launches "Elvolution" on Monday in Wyrick’s theater in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, after previews this week for test audiences.

It’s Carlini’s return to the Strip for the first time since his Sahara revue abruptly closed last summer, after going through two producers. But this time he is working for himself.

"I looked back, and every time I’ve produced something, it went well," he says. Carlini came to town in 1990 to spend more than six years in "Legends in Concert." He followed that with five years of "The Dream King" in the tiny lounge of the Boardwalk (since razed for part of CityCenter), where he sported eight Elvis looks despite the lack of staging.

Carlini’s Sahara show — which coincided with him winning the top prize in ABC’s 2007 talent contest "The Next Best Thing" — was basically him with a few costume changes in front of a stationary bandstand. He says this one still has a full band but is more theatrical, from the Lear jet arrival to pyrotechnics in the "Burning Love" finale. For instance, he says, the segment devoted to the 1968 "comeback special" includes an American Eagle chopper and a platform set duplicating the look of the TV show’s set.

Carlini explains the "Elvolution" title as being about how much Elvis fandom has evolved since the legend’s death in 1977. "People are actually appreciating the (tribute) artist’s talent other than enjoying the Elvis music. People recognize me more as a talent more than someone just hiding behind a mask."

Wyrick has curbed his schedule from 12 to six or seven shows per week, giving Carlini room for a guaranteed seven per week. Wyrick says he wants flexibility in his schedule to film 13 episodes of a reality series, titled "Tricky Bizness," that he is executive producing. "Trent will keep the fort up while I’m away shooting," he says.

Wyrick says to expect a cable network announcing the series soon. …

Talk is circulating in the show community that "Crazy Girls" may soon follow "An Evening at La Cage" out of the Riviera. Both are helmed by producer Norbert Aleman. But company manager Karen Raider said Wednesday, "Things are going fine and ‘Crazy Girls’ is not closing."

When Aleman closed "La Cage" in early February (with hopes of reopening it later), he said he thought "Crazy Girls" would be OK because it has a smaller overhead of eight cast and crew members, compared with 18 for "La Cage." …

The recession finally breached the fortress walls of Cher. The one Las Vegas act that seemed impervious is discounting for Las Vegas locals on the next two Wednesday nights, March 11 and 18.

By discount, they mean a kind of musical chairs. Buy a ticket at the upper balcony price, and you can scoot down to the lower one. Buy one for the lower balcony, and you move down to rear orchestra. …

Sunday’s column talked about the new musical version of "Spider-Man" going to Broadway instead of Las Vegas. That’s still good news, albeit with more travel expenses, for Scott Fisher. His Las Vegas-based Fisher Technical Services is overseeing the mechanical effects for the new musical.

"The flying is going to be pretty spectacular, (and) we’re the only ones in the world with the technology necessary to do it," he says. Fisher’s company also did the superchandelier for "Phantom" at The Venetian, and he promises some "nifty new toys" will be deployed for "Spider-Man." …

In 2007, I wrote a column about the odd career path of Ronnie Keel, who went from an ’80s band bearing his name to performing as Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn in the "Country Superstars Tribute" at Fitzgeralds.

But Keel and bandmates decided to get the old band back together, recently performing as Keel for the first time since 1989 at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood. The group plans to record a new album and play some outdoor festivals this summer.

But Keel co-produces "Superstars," and at least until summer, still performs in it about half of each month’s performances. The revue also picked up veteran Charlie Daniels impersonator Johnny Potash and Corrie Sachs, whose amazing resemblance to Reba McEntire was seen for years in "Honky Tonk Angels."

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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