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December 20, 2014

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Humanizing Colonel Tom Parker was a Priscilla Presley objective

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Scott Harrison/Retna/www.harrisonphotos.com

Priscilla Presley and Cirque du Soleil unveil Viva Elvis at Aria in CityCenter on Dec. 15, 2009.

Viva ELVIS media preview

Acrobats perform stunts during the new Viva ELVIS show by Cirque du Soleil at Aria Tuesday, December 15, 2009. Preview performances will begin Friday, December 18. Aria, the centerpiece of the $8.5 billion project, will open after a fireworks display Wednesday night. The development is a partnership between MGM Mirage and Dubai World. Launch slideshow »

One of the questions lingering after the original five-piece media preview of "Viva Elvis" at Aria was the depiction of Colonel Tom Parker as the narrator of the production and the show's lone human centerpiece.

The characterization of Parker seemed rather broad-based, similar in personality to the nameless, generic manager who opens Wayne Newton's "Once Before I Go" at Tropicana. But that role, played by Garrett Eugene Case Jr. (read this well-crafted story about Case in The Salt Lake Tribune), has been treated to significant tweaking by no less an expert on Presley's life and career than Priscilla Presley.

Word from a friend of Priscilla Presley's is that she found the original Colonel Tom character too comic to be accurate, and forged changes to better reflect his complex personality — humanize him, in other words. Parker and Presley enjoyed a close, but often complicated, relationship from the time Parker was brought aboard in 1956 to Presley's death in 1977. Priscilla Presley was involved in the re-shaping of the original version of the show, including dropping the stilted Elvis impressionist that left many who saw the show's early performances a bit confused.

Presley is scheduled to discuss and unveil details of the show at 6 p.m. Thursday on CNN's "Larry King Live."

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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