Review Roundup: The Critics Weigh In On HEARTBREAK HOTEL in Chicago

Review Roundup: The Critics Weigh In On HEARTBREAK HOTEL in ChicagoBroadway In Chicago presents HEARTBREAK HOTEL, a musical premiere that ignites the stage of the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place (175 E. Chestnut). Get a first look below!

HEARTBREAK HOTEL follows the tender story of Elvis Presley in the early years of his career as he and Sam Phillips create the music that will forever change their lives. As Elvis's career skyrockets, both lifting and shattering the lives of those he loves, a secret love story is revealed, a betrayal is discovered, and "Colonel" Tom Parker changes the course of history, all in just 18 short months.

This brand new musical features hit songs from the King himself as well as the legends who influenced his iconic music, with chart-toppers including "Blue Suede Shoes," "That's All Right," "Shake, Rattle and Roll," and, of course, "Heartbreak Hotel." This is where the story begins... "take a walk down lonely street."

Chicago's 'King of Rock and Roll' is played by Eddie Clendening who originated the role of Elvis in the acclaimed production of HEARTBREAK HOTEL at the Ogunquit Playhouse. Broadway World called Clendening's performance at the Ogunquit "spectacular." The Portland Press Herald says, "Clendening channels Elvis's unforgettable vocals with an uncanniness that brings thrilling goose bumps..." and the Boston Post Gazette hails, "[Clendening] is able to rock out with the raw energy of Presley while always retaining that shyness that made him so charming."

The full company includes Jerry Kernion as Colonel Tom Parker, Matt McKenzie as Sam Phillips, Geno Henderson as Jackie Wilson, BB King, Ike Turner and others, Matt Codina as Scotty Moore, Colte Julian as Dewey Phillips, Zach Lentino as Bill Black,

Jamie Pittle as DJ Fontana/Drums, Erin Burniston as Dixie Locke, Darcy Jo Wood as Marion Keisker, Katherine Lee Bourne? as Rosetta Tharpe and others, Takesha Meshe? Kizart as Ruth Brown and others, Andrea Collier as Sally Wilbourn and others, Alicia McCracken Morgan as Gladys/ensemble, and Chuckie Benson, Briana Bower, Tommy Malouf and Zach Sorrow as understudies/swings.

HEARTBREAK HOTEL is written and directed by Floyd Mutrux (Million Dollar Quartet) whose screenwriting and directorial credits include American Hot Wax, The Untouchables, Urban Cowboy, Up In Smoke, American Me, Ford Fairlane, Blood In Blood Out, Mulholland Falls, and Hillside Strangler. The show's creative team will include Birgitte Bjorum (Choreography), Adam Koch (Scenic Design), Jason Lyons (Lighting Design), Drew Levy (Sound Design) and Daniel Brodie (Projection Design), John R. Banister and Keith Harrison (Orchestrations and Arrangements) and Tom Vendafreddo (Music Direction).

Individual tickets for HEARTBREAK HOTEL at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place (175 E. Chestnut) range from $35- $75 with a select number of premium seats. Tickets are available now for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710 or emailing For more information, visit

Photo Credit: Brett Beiner

Let's see what the critics have to say!

Rachel Weinberg, BroadwayWorld: Fortunately, this production does have a few saving graces. Eddie Clendening reprises the role of Elvis after taking on this icon in MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, and his vocal interpretation of the singer remains spot on. Though Clendening is not a dead ringer for Elvis looks-wise, he definitely sports the right hairstyle and the right outfits (courtesy of costume designer Dustin Cross). And when he tears into Elvis's songs, it's a good time indeed. Erin Burniston is charming and sweet as Elvis's high school girlfriend Dixie Locke. Burniston also has formidable vocal talents, which she lends beautifully to the classic "Can't Help Falling In Love." Matt McKenzie has a warm and grounded presence as Sun Records head Sam Phillips. Jerry Kernion is appreciably smarmy as Colonel Tom Parker, the manager eager to take advantage of Elvis's rising fame.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: Actually, the individual scenes with Phillips aren't bad at all for the genre - in fact, the show gives useful prominence to Phillips' assistant, Marion (the excellent Darcy Jo Wood), credited here with persuading her overly purist (and indebted) boss to take a chance on a new sound - or, more accurately, an appropriated sound. You can thoroughly enjoy all the Elvis hits (and you'll hear at least 30 of them here) and still be ready and willing to better understand that all-American origin story.

Lawrence Bommer, Stage and Cinema: At the heart of Heartbreak is Clendening's born-again Elvis, reinventing "Are You Lonely Tonight?" from the inside out amid the delirious bewilderment of a truck driver turned national monument. More than a spin-off from Million Dollar Quartet, this "play it again" romp takes us on a "Mystery Train" to some "Good Rockin' Tonight." Grateful crowds will leave "All Shook Up."

Jeff Nelson, Read Buzz: Mutruz chooses well from Elvis' early hits and contemporary hits that influenced Elvis' music and style. But, the best element this recreation of the making of Elvis is the actor who brings him to life, Eddie Clendening. He has played Elvis over 2,200 times and originated the role in "Million Dollar Quartet." He has the voice and a respectful imitation of Elvis' often controversial stage persona that is appropriately historical and never disrespectful. The best element of Clendening's performance is his charisma; when he is on stage, the Elvis we experience really soars. You experience a resurrected Elvis who grabs your attention without making you nostalgic for the original.

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