The King & I: a Hunk of Burnin’ Love (Critic's Pick)

Schedule C Productions (Anderson, Ind.)

Critic's Pick

Celebrity worship can sometimes become exactly that. That’s never been more true than with Elvis Presley. Almost 40 years after his death he’s still celebrated as a pillar of music and more. Kevin Holladay’s show explores the King of Rock & Roll’s sway on his people and the allure of groupthink on the masses.

This irreverent 50-minute musical comedy attempts to unpack celebrity idolatry, consumer culture and the veneration of a simpler time with hilarious results that definitely are not suitable for children or the easily offended.

The show was written and directed by and stars Holladay, who dominates the stage with his comic timing and physicality. He plays Melvin MacGillicuddy who, after his grandmother is awakened from a 17-year coma by Elvis’s 1957 Christmas album, changes his name to Melvis Praisley and starts an Evangelical church devoted to the singer. The tale follows his comic tragedy that mirrors his idol’s life with a little bit of the New Testament thrown in for good measure.

Holladay is joined by Jesska Pinyon, as the possible daughter of Elvis and Lisa Marie. The show also uses video news clips and interviews that show the effects of the burgeoning religion on the masses. Although Pinyon doesn’t have quite the presence of Holladay, she’s whimsical and plays a pointed straight man to Holladay’s fool.

The structure of the narrative cuts between Praisley’s sermons that involve the audience as his congregation in a fourth-wall breaking, dynamic fashion. This is a real benefit of Fringe venues, in that there’s seldom a barrier between audience and performers. Holladay really takes advantage of that by interacting directly with the crowd and even pulling off improv during sneezes and an unexpected technical failure. The behind-the-scenes drama between Praisley and Lisa Marie, however, does manage to evoke genuine pathos and poignancy.

All in all, the show is a clever sendup of the cult mentality and blind faith. It doesn’t have an axe to grind when it comes to Christianity so much as it communicates a personal message about being true to one’s self. It’s gentle satire that invites the audience to laugh with, not at, the subject matter it cleverly lampoons.

THE KING & I: A HUNK OF BURNIN' LOVE by Schedule C Productions (Anderson, Ind.) will be performed 7 p.m. May 31, 8:15 p.m. June 2, 7 p.m. June 4 and 5 p.m. June 7 at 17 E. Court St., Over-the-Rhine. 
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