'Priscilla' based on actual love affair; 'Falling' entirely fictional

Imagine an Elvis Presley stage musical without the King’s hit songs “Love Me Tender,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love” or “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Priscilla Beaulieu Presley has joined with Santa Monica-based Immortal Entertainment to develop a new tuner, “Priscilla and Elvis,” based on her love affair and marriage to the king of rock ‘n’ roll.

That’s news to the late rocker’s estate, Elvis Presley Enterprises, which is controlled by Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Priscilla and Elvis.

“We, the company, knew nothing of Priscilla’s project until yesterday,” said Gary Hovey, vice president of EPE.

Competing projects

Two years ago, EPE commissioned Joe DiPietro (“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”) to write the book for a stage musical incorporating songs from the Elvis Presley catalogs, which the estate controls. That musical, entitled “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” workshopped last winter in Gotham, with another workshop planned for winter 2003. At the helm is Christopher Ashley, who directed the Broadway revival of “The Rocky Horror Show.”

“The Presley estate controls the lion’s share of Presley’s music,” said Jonathan Pollard, a producer on “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” “Anyone who’s going to use that music would have to get authorization from that estate. No such cooperation is being envisioned vis-a-vis what Immortal has announced.”

Hovey seconded that statement. “We remain dedicated to the DiPietro show,” he said.

Fictional tale

Unlike “Priscilla and Elvis,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love” is completely fictional and tells the story of a small town that is transformed when a new jukebox, featuring the songs of Elvis Presley, arrives at the local honky-tonk. According to Pollard, the musical’s narrative is loosely based on Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Obviously, there is more than one way to stage an Elvis Presley musical.

“This is Priscilla’s story, which has never been told,” said David Codikow, president of Immortal Entertainment. “It is the music they fell in love with and how it shaped their lives. The show might include some Elvis music and it might not. There will definitely be music from that era.” Codikow said he also was talking to various songwriters about contributing original music to the stage production. “And there are Elvis songs that are clearly available,” he added. “Priscilla is relatively close to the estate. We don’t anticipate a problem.”

Hovey confirmed that some music recorded by Presley, especially his later work, was not controlled by EPE, of which Lisa Marie Presley is CEO and chairman.

Immortal Entertainment also announced a nationwide audition to cast the roles of Priscilla and Elvis Presley. With Priscilla as the contest’s chief judge, Codikow plans to spin that search into a reality TV event in the vein of “American Idol.”

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