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April 18, 2014

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Melody Sweets is looking forward to her guest-singing gig in ‘MDQ’

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Melody Sweets, in costume, on set at Grand Canyon Ranch in April 2013 for the filming of her video for the song, “Shoot ‘em Up.”

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Melody Sweets, in costume, on set at Grand Canyon Ranch in April 2013 for the filming of her video for the song, "Shoot 'em Up." The actor dressed as a butcher is "Absinthe" company manager Daniel Kells.

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Melody Sweets of "Absinthe" arrives at the 2014 Fighters Only World Mixed Martial Arts Awards on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, at the Venetian.

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Melody Sweets performs during Mark Shunock’s “Mondays Dark,” benefiting Nevada SPCA, at Vinyl on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, in the Hard Rock Hotel.

Melody Sweets is known as a burlesque performer who inhabits the role of the songbird Green Fairy in “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace.

But on Feb. 25, she is joining the throwback, 1956 rock ’n’ roll musical “Million Dollar Quartet” at Harrah’s.

Why is she doing this?

“Because I get to sing with Elvis,” she says.

When it is pointed out that the Elvis onstage is not really Elvis, but rather the Elvis tribute artist (we used to call them impressionists) Justin Shandor, Sweets stops.

“Oh,” she says. “Well, I’m not doing it then.”

C’mon now, of course she is doing this.

Sweets will be the latest guest star in the show that revives and reinterprets the famous and only meeting of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios on the night of Dec. 4, 1956.

On Feb. 25, Sweets is to sing the 1956 rockabilly number “My Boy Elvis,” made famous by Janis Martin, who effectively cut through as a high-selling rock ’n’ roll artist at a time when the music business was staunchly male. Martin was the first woman to be dubbed “the female Elvis,” a title that would informally be given to Ann-Margret a decade later.

Sweets follows what has become a rangy lineup of guest singers to appear at the tail end of “MDQ.” Frankie Moreno, Taylor Hicks, Veronic DiCaire, Holly Madison and Pia Zadora have all appeared in the show, which is a great treat to fans who have no idea there is a special guest waiting offstage.

Sweets will be the first star of a standing production show to be featured, and — when this process started — was on the producers’ short list of singers to bring into the performance.

“I loved the show when I saw it, and I think they are all very talented performers,” Sweets says. “The chance to sing with a live band is really appealing because I am singing to canned music in ‘Absinthe.’ That, and the chance to sing a really fun song are why I wanted to do it.”

She pauses, then adds, “That, and I get the chance to step out of my role that I’ve done over 1,000 times over the last three years.”

Sweets has been with “Absinthe” since the show opened at Roman Plaza at Caesars in April 2011. It was a largely unknown entity at that time, but today Sweets, The Gazillionaire, Penny Pibbets and most of the original performers and acts are well-known in the city.

Still, Sweets has kept an individual identity. In fall 2012, she released a burlesque-tinged CD (and a really good one), “Burlesque in the Black.” She has just finished a video of one of the cuts on that album, “Love Digitale,” which is replete with racy metaphors and body-painted performers. Up next is the video from the country-flavored “Shoot ’em Up,” which was recorded in part during a weekend at Grand Canyon Ranch, a little Old West getaway on the western edge of Grand Canyon National Park.

Sweets is always looking for means to expand her act. She won’t be the Green Fairy forever, it stands to reason, and her contract is up for renewal in October. Stepping onstage with the expert cast at “MDQ” allows her to perform in a new forum.

“Something like this gives me a chance to discover new music, which always interests me,” Sweets says. “It’s fun, and I really like the song. Before this, I’d never heard of this Janis Martin.”

But she knows all about Elvis. When asked what her favorite Elvis song is, she lists the New Orleans-influenced “King Creole” and also mentions the Presley cover of Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti.”

“It’s Penny Pibbets’ and my favorite song to sing to each other backstage,” Sweets says, laughing. “Now that’s a fun song.”

And somewhere, you imagine the most famous member of The Million Dollar Quartet is laughing, too.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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