When asked about their futures, most elementary school children told their teachers that when they grew up, they wanted to be a fireman, doctor, engineer or teacher. Steve Michaels told his classmates that he wanted to “put on a jumpsuit and sing just like Elvis”. I recently spoke to Steve about his career and how it has evolved to the extent that he is now starring in Return To Grace, one of the biggest productions to celebrate the music of Elvis Presley.

“The show starts with Elvis’ early days in Memphis, through to his comeback TV show in 1968 and onto the Aloha show in Hawaii that was televised around the world. During those decades of Elvis’ career, his voice evolved from a tenor to a rich baritone; and my challenge is to sing the songs in those different ranges. At one time the producer was going to use three actors to portray those different vocal ranges; but I asked for a chance to cover it all.”

“Elvis was a brilliant singer, who seemed not to have limits. As a baritone, he was still able to soar, as he did with the last notes in My Way. My job is to cover that range.”

Return to Grace

Steve Michaels is utterly convincing in his role as Elvis

“The show is like a time capsule – and we take the audience back to those early days in the 50s when Elvis and his band didn’t have a drummer, and his early hits like Teddy Bear. We then come forward in time, including his ‘comeback’ 1968 television show.”

“I started off as a tribute artist doing my Elvis shows, but with Return To Grace, I’ve become a tribute actor. I can’t just sound like Elvis – I’ve got to look and act like him as well. I study films and shows to work on details about how he held the microphone and how he moved. His movements changed from the early days that were dominated by his leg movements, to his authoritative stances in the 60s and 70s.”

Steve has performed with the late DJ Fontana, Elvis’ long-time drummer in the early days. Fontana was very impressed with Steve’s ability to sing like Elvis, and stated; “You’ve really gotta watch this kid.” Steve also has been able to meet the Jordanaires, the vocal group that performed with Elvis.

“We keep adding to the cast as the show progresses, and by the end we have thirty-one musicians, singers and dancers on stage. We have a narrator who ties the show together, and the show is a beautiful weaving of musical history.”

The show producer, Rob Asselstine, has established a long history of producing successful shows at the Falls View Casino in Niagara Falls. He had stayed away from Elvis, because he didn’t believe that there was anyone capable of portraying Elvis. That all changed when his wife happened to see Steve’s show in Guelph. “I arrived for my first meeting Rob as myself, as Steve Michaels. Rob later told me that if I’d arrived in Elvis character – that the meeting would have been very short.” Rob liked what he saw in Steve’s ability to portray Elvis, and the show was built around Steve.

Return To Grace has been playing to sold out theatres in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and is returning to Toronto before arriving in Montreal for a series of shows at Salle Wilfred Pelletier in Place des Arts from June 15 – 19. Tickets are now on sale at 514-842-2112 or online: www.placedesarts.com Enjoy!

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