An Elvis Stage Musical May Be In Our Future, Baz Luhrmann Teases

Wise men say only fools rush in, but Baz Luhrmann can't help teasing a possible Elvis stage musical. His feature biopic on the rock 'n roll icon, "Elvis," marries the "Romeo + Juliet" director's maximalist sensibility to a performer who was larger than life — so large that the story had to be told from the perspective of an observer, Presley's former manager. Featuring a dynamite performance by Austin Butler, incredible recreations of Presley's supreme performances, and a stunning soundtrack (featuring many songs partially performed by Butler himself), the film had the box office all shook up upon its summer release.

Luhrmann's star-studded 2001 film "Moulin Rouge!," a highly-stylized and influential smash hit, became a successful stage musical in 2018, first running in Boston and then on Broadway. Its success lends credence to the idea that the same could be done for much of his filmography, from the cut-a-rug rom-com "Strictly Ballroom" all the way to the jailhouse-rocking, pelvic-thrusting demi-god in blue suede shoes. John Logan's adapted "Moulin Rouge" musical made its way to the West End this year, and Luhrmann recently appeared at a charity event to support the Teenage Cancer Trust. Speaking with What's on Stage at the event, Luhrmann observed his movies' innate kinship with show-stopping musical numbers, and how, if you're lonesome tonight, you can rest with the hope that the Presley musical might make its way to the stage:

"All my shows naturally can become musicals. I don't know when, but, without putting a sort of headline out there, I can't see how it wouldn't be at some point."

Don't be cruel, Luhrmann. 

'You could really allow that to flow'

Suspicious minds might wonder how such a musical could be structured. According to the stylistic storyteller, the screen-to-stage translation wouldn't deviate too much from the movie. "Think of the role of [Colonel Tom Parker] anchoring a swirling musical that goes around about Elvis," Luhrmann told the reporter at the West End charity event.

Presley's shady manager and massively unreliable narrator Colonel Parker, played with zeal by a prosthetic-covered Tom Hanks in the film, is the lynchpin, a choice defended by Luhrmann via comparison to the Mozart-Salieri relationship in Miloš Forman's 1984 period drama, "Amadeus." Originally, an opening scene had the Colonel floating in space and on the Vegas strip before finally introducing Elvis, an idea that was trashed as audiences for an Elvis picture want to see Elvis quickly, with little preamble. Hopefully, Luhrmann would leave that particular idea on the drawing board and avoid a blue Christmas by giving the stage audiences what they want: Elvis songs steeped in that Southern drawl and those sweet, sweet Vegas costumes. He went on to suggest that pouty-lipped star Austin Butler could even take the stage (and take us to Heartbreak Hotel) himself:

"We had the privilege of being able to see Austin do all those numbers in 'Elvis,' but full-out. We didn't call cut — he just did the whole concert. So on a musical stage version, you could really allow that to flow. We had the privilege of feeling like we were in the showroom with Elvis, and a live stage version would give you that as well as the inner life of Elvis, the story."

To paraphrase the King, now that we know he's up for it, we'd love a little less conversation and a little more action, please.