Elvis Presley will soon enter the building — as in the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place — when the musical “Heartbreak Hotel” begins its 10-week Chicago run June 30.
The jukebox musical — which traces the first 18 months of Presley’s career, from his days as a teen-aged truck driver to his arrival at Sun Studios in Memphis to his life-changing affiliation with Col. Tom Parker and his ascent to superstardom — is the work of writer/director Floyd Mutrux, who, along with Colin Escott, also penned “Million Dollar Quartet,” the musical inspired by a famous one-night recording session (and famous photo) in 1956 featuring Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. “Quartet” arrived in Chicago in 2008 at the Goodman Theatre and later moved to the Apollo Theater where it played for more than 3,000 performances.
Mutrux and company are hoping Chicago will heartily embrace “Heartbreak Hotel,” which stars Eddie Clendening as Elvis (also seen here in “Million Dollar Quartet”), Matt Codina as guitarist Scotty Moore and Beau Sample as bassist Bill Black.
Chicago media were treated to a sneak peek at the show on Thursday at the Hard Rock Cafe.
“I’ve always been a big fan of ’50s rock and roll, country, rhythm and blues, and obviously Elvis was a big part of that,” said Clendening. “But ya, I used to get beat up in school for wearing a pompadour and old [’50s-style] clothes, playing a guitar.”
Playing Elvis is no small feat, as diehard fans expect a true representation of their King.
“I just had to remember what I loved about him when I first learned about him, everything that I’ve read and all the things that make him interesting to me,” Clendening said about stepping into those blue suede shoes. “And I gotta kind of focus on that and try and portray that as effectively as possible and hope everyone finds something in that that they enjoy.”
For Codina, a seasoned guitarist, it meant locking into Moore’s signature style of play.
“I think in part his style came from the people who influenced him … like Chet Atkins (who incidentally played on Presley’s original recording of “Heartbreak Hotel”),” Codina said. “[Moore] had that distinct approach to it.”
“That heavy, syncopated thumb that added so much to the backbeat. Nobody really had that style until him,” Clendening added.
Mutrux said crafting the narrative for the show was an 18-month process, but source material came from a logical place. “The story is a biography I stole from history,” Mutrux said with a big smile, noting Authentic Brands Group (owner of Elvis Presley Enterprises) is backing the project. “I just told the story. It took 18 months to write it, the play is only 90 minutes, so I left a few things out [for the stage version].”
For tickets, visit broadwayinchicago.com.