Trent Carlini — ‘The King’

Trent Carlini has played all over this town, but somehow the road leads back to where it should: the Las Vegas Hilton.

The city’s most tenacious Elvis impersonator worked his current stage, currently known as Shimmer Cabaret, way back in 2001. He has tried a lot of rooms since then, including the main Hilton stage where the real Elvis Presley actually karate-kicked.

But now he is back in the Shimmer, and it just feels right.

Cirque du Soleil’s “Viva Elvis” takes the King’s legacy into intriguing new interpretations. But Las Vegas always needs a traditional Elvis impersonator, and the Hilton is where he should be. The basic three-act presentation of Rockabilly, Comeback Special and Vegas Elvis (with an optional nod to Movie Elvis) is the Vegas version of Globe Theatre Shakespeare.

The big Cirque show might even feed this modest production, after it gives people everything except what Carlini offers: a solidly sung, credible impersonation (even if there’s something not quite right with the hair), leavened with enough humor to keep the camp factor down to a minimum.

But there’s a twist this time. This show, called “The King,” seems to take “Viva Elvis” into account as well. Carlini needs time to change outfits, and those changes are covered by a trio of dancers in silver bikinis performing to a techno mix of “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” or the “Inherit the Wind” mashup of Jay Z, Beyonce and Elvis.

The most daring venture is Ashley Yin’s interpretive ballet to James Morrison’s “You Give Me Something,” here saluting the Elvis and Ann-Margret love that was never meant to be.

Carlini explains the goal is to “keep the integrity of Elvis solid” with the costumes and arrangements in their proper past, while letting the connective material show how the legend has continued into the 21st century.

Great idea, even if there’s just a bit too much of the latter. The costume-change disappearances every 10 to 15 minutes threaten to become a “Saturday Night Live” gag. (At least he’s cut the “G.I. Blues” number in uniform).

At any rate, it’s great to see the dancers and five-piece band back in action, after a bizarre misstep at another venue last year, where Carlini attempted to replace them with scenery and props.

Here, he proves you don’t need much beyond a few scarves to hand out. Carlini works the catalog from “Blue Suede Shoes” to a robust “Follow That Dream.” The sound is crisp and a tiered band set left over from a previous show works just fine.

Those who would mock will be deflated by Carlini’s easy-going charm, or self-directed jokes such as getting down into the famous leg-extension crouch, then acting like he can’t get up.

He gets the “Thankya very much” joke out of the way early, then talks in his own voice instead of trying to sustain the Memphis legend between songs. At this show, he even introduced his 4-year-old son to the audience.

With any luck, Carlini’s travels have ended, and the lad will grow up feeling quite at home watching Dad shake it in the Shimmer.

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

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