Friday, May 30, 2003 | 9:52 a.m.
If You Go
- What: "Dream King."
- When: 7:30 p.m. July 15 through Aug. 3. Dark Mondays.
- Where: Las Vegas Hilton Showroom.
- Tickets: $35, $40.
- Information: 732-5111.
He's got Elvis' good looks, Elvis' moves and Elvis' voice and soon he will have Elvis' stage, at least for three weeks.
Trent Carlini begins a three-week engagement July 15 at the Hilton, where the King ruled in the late '60s to mid-'70s.
"The Hilton is coming around to the realization that Elvis is what made the whole town," the 35-year-old Chicago native said. "Elvis is synonymous with Las Vegas." What sparked the hotel's epiphany was the cancellation by Engelbert Humperdinck of the remainder of his engagement due to health problems.
It was the second time this year that Humperdinck bailed on his dates. The first time was around the first of the year.
"We got a call in January that he was canceling performances," said Jerry Peluso, the producer of the popular "Fab Four" tribute show to The Beatles, which is at the Hilton several times each year. He also recently became the producer of Carlini's "Dream King" production.
"The hotel called us and asked if the 'Fab Four' could fill in for Engelbert, but it was too late for us to step in," Peluso said. "We already had commitments months in advance; Trent was booked, too."
There was speculation that Humperdinck might cancel his second run at the Hilton.
"And that's exactly what happened," Peluso said. "The day he canceled, the Hilton called me again, asked if I could fill a day for mid-July through the first week in August. I said, 'Let me get back with you.' "
The "Fab Four" was scheduled to begin an engagement at the Hilton after Humperdinck completed his dates.
Peluso approached Carlini and a deal was struck.
"I had seen Trent last year at the Riviera (in Le Bistro Theatre)," Peluso said. "I was absolutely blown away by his performance. I had been telling the folks at the Hilton about him for a long time.
"It's such a perfect fit -- Elvis onstage where Elvis performed. It's just perfect."
And the time is right.
"Look at what's happening in Las Vegas right now," Peluso said. "We're getting away from Disneyland and back to the late-'60s feel, the Rat Pack days, to what Las Vegas used to be, a wonderland for adults. Trent's timing couldn't be better. He captures the nostalgic moment."
Las Vegas has more than its fair share of Elvis tribute artists, but Peluso isn't concerned about Carlini getting lost in the crowd.
"The difference is in the quality," he said. "Honesty comes through in Trent's performances. Others are just impersonating Elvis. Trent is an actor who, onstage, becomes Elvis.
"Trent has all the elements -- the looks, the moves, the voice. He works the crowd and they love him."
Carlini is no stranger to the 1,400-seat Hilton showroom. He performed there in 1999 during an Elvis tribute week.
"It was the same week that The Venetian opened," Peluso said. "It was tough for anybody to play, but he did well."
Carlini has always done well as an Elvis tribute artist. He has performed all over the world; his largest audience was 14,000 at a concert in Montreal.
Carlini says he owes a lot to Elvis.
Born in Chicago in 1968 to Italian immigrant parents, Carlini was 7 when his mother and father decided to return to their native country.
"It was quite a culture shock," he said.
The dream of returning to the United States one day never faded.
"The thing that kept me linked to America the most was Elvis," Carlini said. "His music was all over the airwaves, and I felt at ease with it."
He grew up in Europe, where he formed a band and began cutting records at age 17. When he was 19 he moved to Florida and began his musical career in the United States with a rockabilly band.
It wasn't long before his Elvislike features, moves and voice began landing him gigs as an Elvis tribute artist.
"It was tough in the beginning," Carlini said. "Everyone wanted me to do a characterization. They wanted me to be a cliche, and I didn't want to do that."
He headlined "Legends in Concert" at the Imperial Palace for six years, deciding to leave the troupe and to move his own show to the Boardwalk in 1996.
Carlini prefers to describe himself as "an Elvis stylist" as opposed to an impersonator.
"I didn't want to impersonate him," he said. "I wanted to do his music, but still be myself."
When Carlini isn't busy being Elvis, he is busy being a single parent, raising three daughters.
And he's working on a sitcom pilot for television about a single parent who is raising his children by day and performing as Elvis at night.
Although Carlini is one of the busiest Elvis tribute artists in the country, he is looking forward to his gig at the Hilton and would like to see it turn into a long-term arrangement.
"Elvis had so many hit records, I could do a different show every night for six months," Carlini said.
But he will focus on Elvis' '68 comeback hits, and on the songs he performed at the Hilton.
Peluso says "Dream King" will feature a four-piece horn section, a full five-piece band and three female backup singers.
"We want to make it a show that when you go back home to Nebraska or wherever, you tell your friends, 'You've got to go see Trent Carlini when you go to Vegas,' " Peluso said.