‘Million Dollar Quartet’ star does Elvis his way

Thursday, November 16, 2017




Brandon Bennett played Elvis Presley for five and a half years as part of the Chicago production of “Million Dollar Quartet.”

He is still playing the role of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll in his new touring show, but he’s doing it his way.

Titled “Elvis My Way,” the show comes to Westminster College’s Orr Auditorium on Saturday.

As the name implies, the show is not a pure tribute to Presley.

“It’s different from what people have seen before because I’m not pretending to be Elvis on stage,” said Bennett. “It’s a look at Elvis’ song catalog from my perspective, but with his performing style and sound. Between songs, there are stories to be told about my connections with the songs, and stories from folks I’ve known who worked with Elvis over the years, and that ties it all together.”

Bennett said his approach to performing Presley’s music is the same as how an actor approaches a character he is portraying.

“You have to represent him but also do it as yourself so that it’s more real,” he said.

Bennett has the looks, moves and, most of all, the voice of Presley.

“I think Elvis was a phenomenal singer, and I always pay the most attention to the vocals,” he said. “If you are going to sing his songs, you better do it right.”

The show includes an ensemble with horns, backup singers and full production values and covers Presley’s entire career, from the ’50s to the ’70s. The audience can expect to hear all the hits, including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Suspicious Minds.”

But even though he moves into Presley’s late-career sound, Bennett said his appearance is mostly in line with the younger part of his life.

What is Bennett’s favorite era of Presley music? “If I had to pick, it would be the ’70s,” he said. “The ’50s was the rock ’n’ roll, and it was great, and the ’60s songs from his movies had that appeal. But the songs he did in the ’70s had a large sound and power.”

Bennett perfected his Elvis during his stint with “Million Dollar Quartet,” the hit Broadway jukebox musical.

The Chicago production ran for eight years, making it the longest-running musical in Windy City history. Bennett was in it for the past five and a half years, right up until it closed in February 2016.

“I’ll hold that experience dear in my heart for a long time,” he said. “It was a great experience. We became part of the community. I was in about 2,500 performances, and it was still fun on the very last one.”

The Elvis tribute phenomenon has been going on longer than the King’s actual career, and constantly renews itself – and finds new fans.

Bennett notices it at his “Elvis My Way” shows. “I see folks of all different age groups,” he said. “Certainly, there are those who grew up in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. ... They have emotional ties to the music. When you hear a song for the first time in 30 years, it brings you back to where you were when it first came out.

“And they bring their kids and grandkids, and sometimes it’s their first experience with Elvis. Some have told me they didn’t know much about Elvis and became fans after the show and started listening to his music.”