Concept, Choreography and Direction by Dennis Nahat
Costumes and Scenery design by Bob Mackie
Dennis Nahat's Blue Suede Shoes, a one-act ballet danced to 36 master recordings of Elvis Presley songs, combines classical dance with classic rock, extending traditional ballet to rock and disco (on pointe!).
The rock-and-roll ballet, with a good helping of jazz, follows three friends over almost twenty years, starting with high school in the 1950s (when they are first seen wearing their blue suede shoes). The scene evolves to the Hot Dog Drive-in, through graduation, into army life, then lonely streets and a disco concluding with a gold record finale. We meet Long Tall Sally and the Big Boss Man along the way (and their namesake Elvis songs), as the three young men roll through an age of innocence, the social changes of the 1960s, and into disco of the 1970's. The 90-minute ballet has 16 sets and 280 costumes, all designed by Bob Mackie. "Bob's done a stunning design look for us," Nahat says. "It's a very contemporary take on the 1950s, and the stage is always filled with so much action that the audience barely has time to blink or else they miss something."
No Elvis sightings, no Elvis impersonators... "No one can duplicate him, so why bother; besides you see him plain as day when you hear the music. It's his music and the spirit of his music that is important. ... It's about what he symbolized, which is having dreams come true; growing up, going to high school ... taking your life into your own hands." [Dennis Nahat]
Blue Suede Shoes was first performed May 1996 in Cleveland; its west coast premiere was in San Jose in April 1997.
STORY OF THE BALLET
The story opens in 1950s "anytown" USA, an age of innocence. It mirrors the birth of rock 'n roll through several incidents in Elvis Presley's life. After the overture (Guitar Man) we go to the high school where we meet Johnny, Arthur and Raymond, three buddies wearing their blue suede shoes. Johnny is the athlete, Arthur is the nerd, and Raymond is the kid from the wrong side of the tracks.
Arthur tries unsuccessfully to woo (Long Tall) Sally, even offering her a teddy bear. The scene changes to the bustling social scene at the Hot Dog Drive-in, then on to graduation. After graduation the boys attend a farewell party before being inducted into the army. Johnny and Arthur have families to wish them off, but Raymond is alone.
Once in Germany the boys are separated. Johnny loses his girlfriend, Arthur's mother passes away, and Raymond searches for friendship but is still very much alone. Returning home, the boys discover that life has changed dramatically: by drugs, the death of a parent and the passage of time. They each decide to take control of their lives and move on towards the future. In doing so, they are reunited and set out to have a celebration at the local nightclub (a disco, now in the '70s).
At the disco Arthur rediscovers Sally. In trying to win her affections Arthur starts a fight with her boyfriend (The Big Boss Man), the neighborhood pimp who owns the club. The boys are arrested and end up in jail. Released from jail after a spectacular jailhouse scene, all of the characters return to join the Gold Record Finale, reaching for the American Dream where everyone seeks fame and fortune. At the end our boys appear in triumph, dressed in gold and their blue suede shoes.
THE SCENES and THE MUSIC
Hot Dog Drive-In
In the Army
Highways and Lonely Hearts
The American Dream -- Rockin' Golden Oldies