Review: "Heartbreak Hotel" @ Ogunquit Playhouse

Ogunquit Playhouse
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Jason Pendergast

Heartbreak Hotel ( Or Elvis: The Early Years)


A Review by Jason Pendergast

Remember last year’s hit Million Dollar Quartet with its slice of 50’s rock and roll history surrounding the talents of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins?  Well, the Ogunquit Playhouse is now premiering the prequel to that great show, showcasing the events that lead a young and wholesome Presley and his band from their humble beginnings, to the legendary Pelvis Thrusting Rocker up through his first movie role.  It’s an opportunity to see first-hand some of the background tales of one of the greatest Rock and Roll Legends of all times

From the moment Elvis (Eddie Clendening) first enters SUN Records to record a birthday song for his mom, he catches the attention of the studio’s owner Sam Phillips (Matt McKenzie).  Recognizing the boy’s talent, he immediately works to get Elvis and his new brand of music out there.  Through a combination of hard work, talent and the luck of being in right place at the right time to fill in for Carl Perkin’s debut of Blue Suede Shoes, we see the birth of the King of Rock and Roll.

With the help of video clips, still photos displayed on the wall and verses of Presley’s songs, we are given a tour of the early years of Presley’s entertainment career. Clendening gives a sympathetic performance of the well-mannered and sweet Presley as he balances the demands and pressures of fame and fortune with his loyalty to his band mates and the love of his high school sweetheart, both of whom see him slowly move on from them.  Even when he stumbles and struggles with fame, we care and still like this genuine and sweet boy, a rarity when seeing people climb to the top of the ladder of success.

Elvis fans should enjoy the slices of early Presley music, as well as the historical aspects of his life- including his dealings with both Phillips and his other, longer term manager Colonel Tom Parker (Jerry Kernion), who adds a bit of sleazy southern charm to the proceedings.  Other contemporary issues as segregation, music politics and being truthful to one’s self also come into play during this historical docudrama.  Those with an interest in this part of music history should appreciate seeing this show, which fills in details mentioned in Million Dollar Quartet.

“Heartbreak Hotel” is running now through September 30th.  For tickets and show times, call 207-646-5511 or visit their website at


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Ogunquit Playhouse

Ogunquit Playhouse

10 Main Street
Ogunquit, ME 03907

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