It’s absolutely certain — Elvis will be seen tonight in Malibu.
“Idols of the King,” a theatrical tribute to the fans of that king, plays tonight (Thursday) at Pepperdine’s Smothers Theatre, part of a 28-state, 31-week tour of the show produced by Arkansas Repertory Theatre.
While Elvis does appear onstage, played by actor/singer Lance Zitron, “This really is about the fans of Elvis, and how he has affected their lives,” says co-writer Ronnie Claire Edwards, perhaps best known for her role on “The Waltons.”
Edwards says co-writer Allan Crowe (writer for “Designing Women” and “Evening Shade”) was a huge fan of Elvis, while she was more interested in the fans themselves. “He’s very good with dialogue, I’m very good with monologue. It came together very rapidly.
“It either could be called a musical or a play with music” says Edwards, speaking by telephone about the two-act, 16-song evening.
Actor Kevin Bartlett plays eight of the male fans, Dale Dickey plays eight female fans. Edwards says the characters are connected in some way, and after each scene, “Elvis” sings an appropriate song. A live band backs the songs.
Why the fascination with Elvis? “He sort of spoke to some part of people,” she says. “He was an American phenomenon. There’s something about him that reached people.” She quotes Sam Phillips, who owned Sun Records, “Elvis Presley embodied the innocence of America.”
The writer hopes what the audience takes from the play is enjoyment. But, she adds, “I hope they realize that it’s a play that has some literary merit. What these people say, and how he’s affected their lives, is interesting.”
She says audiences, particularly women, flip for the production. “These Elvis fans, they come from all over to see it,” says Edwards.
Maybe the real Elvis will be among them.
“Idols of the King” plays tonight (Thursday) at 8 p.m., Pepperdine’s Smothers Theatre. Tickets, $30, are available at the box office. Tel. 456-4522, fax 456-4556.