Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017 | 2 a.m.
The Westgate Las Vegas is rolling out plenty of entertainment, casino promotions, food specials and more this month for its 40th Tribute to The King, commemorating Elvis Presley’s death on August 16, 1977.
The biggest pieces of the tribute are two performances of “The King Lives! Donny Edwards’ Elite Tribute to Elvis,” taking place on August 11 and 12 at the International Theater, the showroom where Presley performed 837 sold-out shows between 1969 and 1976 (when the property was known as the International Hotel and then the Las Vegas Hilton).
Unbelievably, it will be the first time the Las Vegas-based Edwards—the one and only Elvis tribute artist to have been granted permission by Elvis Presley Enterprises to perform his show on the sacred grounds of Graceland—has had the chance to sing on that stage.
“It’s probably the second-biggest thing I’ve done, after Graceland four years ago,” says Edwards, who moved to Las Vegas in 2003. “I’ve been in that showroom a few times to see other acts. To be chosen by the Westgate with the crew I work with to do the show we’ve been doing all around the world for this 40th anniversary is huge. This is what every Elvis tribute artist dreams of, to be on that stage.”
Edwards is known for the authenticity in his performance, something he believes sets him apart from other tribute performers and impersonators. Among his many local gigs are his recent work at the South Point and a three-year stint performing at the Elvis-A-Rama Museum just west of the Strip, which closed in 2006.
“The [museum] was a really unique experience, especially as a young guy just getting into this business and doing it a certain way,” he says. “They were great about letting me go in there and practice as much as I needed and work on my skills, and providing access to a lot of footage most people don’t have. I try to pick up all the little nuances, the different versions of how he sang songs.
“One problem I have is I like to do things the way Elvis did, even if the majority of his fans never saw him do it. I’ll do something and they’ll say Elvis never did it that way, but actually he did and here’s the footage. That’s happened a couple times.”
Edwards is constantly researching, especially because his show doesn’t stick to one era of The King’s greatness. He progresses through the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, ripping through around 30 songs with a 10-piece band. When he performs at the Westgate, the show’s final act will have him wearing the same outfit and singing the same songs Elvis did in that very room decades ago.
“When you go to Graceland you feel something there, and this has that same feeling. It’s really kind of crazy,” Edwards says. “This is the place he performed the most anywhere in the world. It’s going to be a different sensation than any other stage, and I’m looking forward to the honor of getting to do it there.”
“The King Lives! Donny Edwards’ Elite Tribute to Elvis” will be presented at 7 p.m. August 11 and 12 at the International Theater at Westgate Las Vegas. Tickets start at $22, all ages are welcome and more info can be found by calling 800-732-7117.