Falicia Whited plays the character of Trudy during a recent rehearsal of "Elvis Has Left the Building" at WILLow LeaVes of Hope in Hope, Ind. Photo credit: Submitted.
Falicia Whited plays the character of Trudy during a recent rehearsal of "Elvis Has Left the Building" at WILLow LeaVes of Hope in Hope, Ind. Photo credit: Submitted.

Back by popular demand, the King of Rock and Roll is set to return to the WILLow LeaVes stage for a two-week run this weekend when “Elvis Has Left the Building” opens at 7 p.m. Friday at WILLow LeaVes of Hope, located at 326 Jackson Street on the Hope Town Square downtown.

Producer Naomi Fleetwood-Pyle and the show’s cast of five say not only will this production offer more laughter amidst a whole lot of red scarves a flyin’, but a few surprises, too, including never-before included songs performed by Jason Bowser, who portrays the late iconic artist.

Set in December 1970, the play, written by V. Cate and Duke Ernsberger, is a madcap comedy that explores the pitfalls of what happens when you misplace the king of rock and roll, and the situation is further compounded by the perils of making a bet you cannot repay.

When Elvis’ manager, the Colonel, racks up a hefty debt he comes up with a plan to have his star client perform as a way to pay it back.

The problem? The Colonel has no clue where Elvis is.

He decides to do what he feels is the next best thing. Fake it.

With 24 hours to make it happen and the clock ticking, the Colonel enlists help to impersonate the King.

During its previous two-week run at WILLow LeaVes the play garnered more than 1,000 patrons when it was first offered by Pyle and the Actors’ Studio of Hope last year.

“We brought it back by popular demand,” Pyle says. “Last year, we had people who didn’t make it and had many on a waiting list. So, WILLow LeaVes asked us to bring it back.”

Pyle, who is also producing and co-directing the play, is portraying the role of Candy this time around, she says, and the girl has a lot of sass.

“She was a gal who was caught stealing makeup and the Colonel caught her, took her in and gave her a home and a job,” Pyle says. “She is kind of one of the Colonel’s best friends.”

But, best friend or no, Candy is not shy about expressing her opinions. And she has many.

“Candy, for me, is a bit of a strong character as far as she holds her ground,” Pyle says.

And she has a few surprises to offer, too, Pyle adds.

Co-director Jason Bowser, who also plays the title role, says it's an honor to offer this play to the Hope community. 

“Elvis, especially in the Hope area, has always been huge,” Bowser says. “People love listening to Elvis. People just love Elvis here. If people love it, we are going to give it to them because that is what it is all about.”

Changing things up a bit this time around, Bowser says Elvis will perform more classics with the additions of “A Little Less Conversation,” “Now or Never,” and “Jailhouse Rock” to name a few.

“This is one of my favorite shows because it is one of those where you just get to sit back as an audience member and laugh,” he says. “There is no hidden meaning or deep story, it is just to go and forget about things for a while and just laugh.”

Bowser recalls growing up watching Elvis' movies as a kid and says he first knew him as an actor, not a singer.

“We would watch [his movies] on TV all the time,” Bowser says. “I just love his music and I always have. Even as a kid, I could recognize the soul that was behind every note he sang. It is a sentimental thing.”

Bowser says despite the plethora of red scarves flylin’ and whole lotta hip shakin’ that’ll be goin’ on, he still approaches the character with the reverence it deserves.

“This is one of those [plays] where the sole purpose it exists is for people to have a good time,” he says. “That is all this is. Even though we have fun with the Elvis character, we are still very respectful.”

As rehearsals wrap up and the cast puts the finishing touches on their characters, the cast is abuzz with excitement and for good reason.

With a truly dynamic set and outstanding cast, the nearly two-hour long production is set to be a memorable performance, Pyle says.

“You know how you feel about certain stars, a lot of people feel that way about Elvis,” Pyle says.

Bowser says his hope for the play’s run this time is simple.

“What I really want is that people are still laughing as they walk out the door,” Bowser says.