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In the Court of the Velvet King with "Elvis My Way" and Studio Tenn in Franklin

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Long live The King! Elvis Presley was an actor and singer who broke out in the 1950's. His energized interpretations of songs were paired with a provocative performance style while his music combined a potent mix of influences across color lines during a transformative era in race relations. This gave Elvis both great success along with controversy. He would be called the "King of Rock & Roll" and his untimely death in 1977 only added to his iconic status.


"Elvis My Way" was done to perfection in Franklin.

Elvis' music is still popular today providing plenty of opportunities to cover his career. The latest incarnation is a cool production called Elvis My Way starring Brandon Bennett. This traveling show was hosted by the well-respected theater group Studio Tenn on August 6-8, 2021 at the new Sondra Morris and Robert N. Moore Center for Arts and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, Tennessee. This show marked the first professional use of the state of the art facility with a capacity of 550 that is sure to become a favorite venue in the region.

Elvis My Way is the creation of Artists Lounge Live a Chicago-based concert company that presents popular music of yesterday performed by singular talents of today. Their productions offer fans an authentic emotional connection that ties into their belief in the restorative power of live entertainment for both the individual and the community. Elvis My Way starring Brandon Bennett was a moving musical that touched upon the history of The King and the humanity of its artist in a thrilling and captivating fashion.

The show started out with a triple up-tempo set of "Shake, Rattle & Roll", "Blue Suede Shoes" and "That's All Right". All three featured the famous swivels that some TV programs in the 50's considered too suggestive so they would only film Elvis from the waist up. History and humor were woven into the show. Although we knew The King had been in movies we had not realized that he had appeared in over 30 films each with their own soundtracks. A number of songs from that era were aptly handed by Brandon.


The David Fontana Band provided a proven backing track for Elvis My Way.

On a more personal note, Bennett mentioned the power of faith and music. He shared that he was a father of four but they had lost one son at a young age. Brandon recalled that this child never wanted to sleep but would only do so when Brandon sang to him "Can't Help Falling in Love". It was a poignant point as was "How Great Thou Art". Bennett reminded us that Elvis won Grammys for his gospel rather than rock music.

Brandon Bennett was backed by the formidable David Fontana Band who has worked with hundreds of ETA's (Elvis Tribute Artist) over the years. They are committed to preserving the original sound and style of Elvis Presley's music. David Fontana is the son of DJ Fontana who was Elvis' original drummer from 1956-1968. During the show Bennett told the crowd that David met The King when he was a precocious child and in an effort to win over the kid, Presley let little Fontana pick a teddy bear from his large collection and David still has it. Apparently, at the time the song "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear" (1957) came out fans sent the singer a ton of toys.


Brandon Bennett looked and sounded the part at Battle Ground Academy.

During his career, Elvis covered many other artists. He had success with "Kentucky Rain" penned by Eddie Rabbit. The King also managed to make "My Way" originally sang by the legendary Frank Sinatra a signature song for himself. Along with those covers other highlights of the show included "Hound Dog", "It's Now or Never" along with the popular "Suspicious Minds". Considering Elvis recorded hundreds of songs, Brandon concisely captured some key moments from his catalogue. Bennett was personable and demonstrated a true passion for his work along with reverence for The King.

Elvis My Way starring Brandon Bennett was a successful return for Studio Tenn who like many has been on hiatus. Studio Tenn's mission is "to captivate and inspire with Broadway-quality musicals, plays, and concerts while educating the next generation to create and delight in the experience of live theatre". During the pandemic, Studio Tenn hosted virtual events. They are also working on Cabaret On Stage in collaboration with the TPAC. This new Broadway series features performances by Susan Egan, Adam Pascal, Branden & James, Shoshana Bean, and Norm Lewis. Tickets are available now at tpac.org.

Studio Tenn is in the capable hands of Patrick Cassidy their Artistic Director since 2019. He is the son of Oscar winner Shirley Jones and Tony winner Jack Cassidy. Patrick comes to Studio Tenn from Southern California, where he was artistic director of the regional theater company 5-Star Theatricals. He produced a string of acclaimed productions there, including The Music Man starring Adam Pascal (Rent) as Harold Hill and Beauty and the Beast with Susan Egan reprising her Tony-nominated role as Belle. Patrick is also working with his brother Shaun Cassidy on a fundraiser for Studio Tenn coming to the area in the Fall - details to follow.


Patrick Cassidy - no stranger to show business - is the Artistic Director of Studio Tenn.

Related Links: For more information on ELVIS MY WAY and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Studio Tenn | Artists Lounge Live | David Fontana Band

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