FEATURING: Nathan Belt
STAGED BY: Johnny van Grinsven, Showtime Australia
VENUE: The Mandela, Joburg Theatre
UNTIL: February 2
RATING: ****


Impersonating Elvis is far more challenging than being able to perfect your pelvic movements. It’s essential that there must be lots of intelligence higher up in the body to achieve a lasting impression.

Nathan Belt from Las Vegas has it all: the voice, the looks, the personality, youth as well as musical flair and acumen, to perform with ease on a variety of instruments.

But even when all of this is solidly in place, there’s no guarantee that the impersonator will be convincing enough to ooze the kind of charm that will make audiences eat out of his proverbial hands.

On this level, Belt is more of a reincarnation of The King. After unfortunately having experienced a number of horrendously camp Elvis impersonators (especially in the 1980s and early 1990s), Belt’s performance never lets you wonder about his seriousness of bringing Elvis to a younger generation who never acquainted themselves with his legacy.

It was Elvis who said: “ambition is a dream with a V8 engine” and during a concert mentioned: “I think I have something tonight that’s not quite correct for evening wear. Blue suede shoes.”

It’s with this mega Presley hit that Belt opens the sluices of this two-hour nostalgic show. The intensity and energy he lets loose only seldom abates, while the crowd, many which were dressed up in various incarnations of rock ‘n’ roll gear, would cheer him up to give his best – all proving that in the best hands nostalgia can exactly be like it used to be.

Just about all the universally acclaimed Presley songs passed in this most entertaining tribute: Jailhouse Rock, I’m All Shook Up. Suspicious Minds and more.

Nathan Belt, as the natural charmer he no doubt is, moved into the auditorium and handed out scarves to the ladies and kissed the younger ones on their cheeks.

The staging of the show is staggeringly professional, recalling the 1950s and ’60s with a vintage car, motor bike and a juke box.

Even more fascinating and, according to Belt, totally authentic, was the scene where he and three musicians set up the Sun Studio where Elvis and his early bandmates recorded songs for his mother.

Belt’s band on the Mandela stage is a professional act, including our own Steve Dennett who produces a stunning bass guitar solo, and dancers and backing vocalists give extra lustre to the mind-blowing show.