Trent Carlini is widely regarded as one of the best Elvis impersonators in Las Vegas, and with a re-imagined show at Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino that's as genuine and touching as it is classically fun, it's clear that he'll remain a star for years to come.
The show highlights Elvis' life in film, and Carlini pays tribute to The King rather than act as a strict impersonator. If you see "The King," you'll agree there's no question that Carlini earns his reputation as one of Vegas' best. Still, it's hard to put a finger on what it is that makes Carlini special.
It could be the mastery with which he handles his musical duty. A life-long fan of Elvis, Carlini started performing The King's music at parties and functions around age 10. (His dad was his "manager.") So he knows the material inside and out, which means he can deliver a smooth-as-silk performance every night.
Maybe it's the way he works a room that makes him a long-time Vegas favorite. Shimmer Cabaret at Westgate is a small, 350-seat showroom. The stage is low and close to the audience and it's just big enough for Carlini to put on an intimate show. The small crowd is just right for Carlini, who works to make each member feel like the sole object of his serenade.
These are both great aspects of Carlini's show, but the reason we think Carlini has been a favorite for so long is that in addition to being experienced and talented, he delivers a remarkably heartfelt and genuine performance.
Carlini is an artist in his own right, not a rip-off or a piggybacker. Oh yes, he looks and sounds like Elvis, but he also looks and sounds like Trent Carlini. During the show, a video takes the audience into Carlini's Southern Nevada home, to a jam session in his living room. The sincerity of Carlini's performance sinks in for the audience when he returns to the stage.
Carlini said that sometimes other impersonators visit his show to take notes. We're not surprised, and while the quality of his performance is certainly something to aspire to, no one could match it by imitation, because Carlini's greatness depends largely on his being true to himself as well as his inspiration.
In "The King," which highlights its namesake's work in film, Carlini shares the stage with his beautiful and talented wife, Ashley Belle, who dances in almost every number and performs solo. He explained that Belle represents the many excellent actresses Elvis performed with during his career on screen.
"She has an entire story to tell," Carlini said of Belle. "… She can tell a story with just one look."
The two have a natural rhythm and chemistry on stage and an obvious wealth of mutual respect. Carlini refers to Belle as his "co-star" and praises her work throughout the show.
Belle opens the production with a solo dance to the modern country hit "Cry Like Memphis," setting the tone for the show: Carlini is not actually Elvis and he won't pretend to be. This is a concert to honor a beloved musician and his work.
The set is simple -- just a few sheer curtains on which soft lights and video are projected -- but Carlini and Belle's costumes provide plenty to look at. They both change outfits every two or three songs.
Carlini wears the compulsory gold blazer for the show's opener, "Blue Suede Shoes," and adds a guitar with a flowered pick guard for "Shake, Rattle and Roll." He dons a Hawaiian shirt and a lei for his tribute to the 1961 film "Blue Hawaii" and dresses in all leather for "Hound Dog" and "All Shook Up." He performs "If I Can Dream" in Elvis' classic white suit, then finishes the show in a bedazzled sky blue jumpsuit and a wide, shiny white belt.
Belle's wardrobe is just as extensive, including girly army fatigues for "G.I. Blues" and a glitzy green grass skirt and bikini top during the Blue Hawaii tribute. She gives the men in the audience something to watch, but her performance is appropriate to the period she represents, and she's never less than classy.
"The King" is a must-see for fans of Elvis' music and character, Old Vegas junkies and lovers of all-around great performances.
-- By Haley Etchison