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November 22, 2014

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Priscilla: Elvis would have been honored by ‘Viva Elvis’

In Larry King interview, Presley’s former wife says she had input in final production

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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

Cirque du Soleil's Viva Elvis at MGM CityCenter's Aria. Launch slideshow »

The King in Las Vegas

Elvis on stage at the International. Launch slideshow »

Vintage Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley poses with his Gibson J-200 guitar in an MGM studio publicity photo from the 1950s. Presley will be reunited with Sun Records as part of a licensing agreement between the owner of the historic label and the singer's estate. Sun Entertainment Corp. of Nashville announced the agreement with Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. Thursday, Oct. 12, 2006. Launch slideshow »

Would Elvis Presley have loved the new "Viva Elvis" Cirque du Soleil show at the CityCenter's Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas?

"I knew you were going to ask me that question," his former wife, Priscilla Presley, told CNN's Larry King during an interview on Thursday night's "Larry King Live."

"Elvis loved entertainment," Priscilla Presley said. "He loved Vegas. He loved all forms of entertainment ... He loved to watch dance numbers. So I can't imagine him not feeling honored that a whole show has been produced just for him."

Will audiences emerge from the show knowing more about Elvis?

"I know you will definitely come out liking him an awful lot," Priscilla Presley said. "And I think it's great for people who didn't know him to know how big of an impact that he created on not just us in the U.S., but all over the world."

King interviewed Presley off and on for about 25 minutes, devoting part of the time to showing clips from the show and from old Elvis movies, such as the dance number from "Jailhouse Rock."

During the interview, Priscilla Presley said that she had played a role in helping to shape the final version of the show, which opens Friday.

While a preview performances of "Viva Elvis" has been playing to audiences since Dec. 15, there have been a number of changes made to the show for Friday's opening, Armand Thomas, director of creation for the show, and Stephane Montague, executive producer, told King.

Thomas admitted he personally didn't know much about Elvis' music before starting work on the show, but "now I feel like I went to Elvis University over the last three years. And I can talk your ears off about his life and his music here, if we had the time."

Thomas said Priscilla Presley played a major role in fine-tuning the production.

"Actually right down to set elements, colors, Priscilla helped us enormously in understanding Elvis," Thomas said.

Priscilla Presley said it was good working with the Cirque people associated with the show.

"We had our ups and downs only in that ... I know Elvis very well; the family knows Elvis very well, obviously. So you want the interpretation to come across clear," she said. "... It's trying to get it translated. And that's probably most difficult."

Asked if Priscilla Presley was easy to work, Montague said she was. "She was very nice. Every time we had the opportunity to have her with us, it was always very, very nice. It was very helpful for us," Montague said.

Although the two Cirque officials didn't say what specific changes were made, the Sun's John Katsilometes has reported that those include getting rid of an Elvis impressionist who was on stilts and making changes in the role of the character of Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis' longtime manager.

Neither of those specific changes was mentioned during Thursday's King interview.

"Cirque du Soleil folks, they have a very unique way of operating," Priscilla Presley said.

"It's their baby, absolutely," she said. "...Sometimes you don't want to tamper with what they know, but we've definitely had some say. The first time we saw it in December, it was pretty much a work in progress. And we've seen it evolve more and more."

Priscilla Presley said the show includes a lot of old movie clips "and probably footage that you've never seen before."

King noted that she and Elvis were married in Las Vegas.

"We were. At the Aladdin Hotel (May 1, 1967). It's no longer there, though," Priscilla Presley said. "There's a lot of great memories. He took me there the very first time I came out to visit. ... He had a love affair with Las Vegas. I was at a very young age. I stood and played blackjack and counted on my fingers in making sure I had the right number."

Priscilla Presley said their daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, saw an early version of the show in December but won't be able to attend Friday's opening of the finished product.

King indicated the early reviews of the show weren't flattering. "There were rumors that it wasn't doing well. Was that premature of people to go see a work in progress and comment on it?"

"It is. Because like any show, you've got to tweak it. You've got to get a feel for it," she said.

King reminded Priscilla that Elvis would have been 75 years old. His birthday was Jan. 8. He died at the age of 42, after having finished an engagement at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas.

"Can you picture Elvis 75?" King said.

"No," Priscilla said. "It's hard to believe. I mean he's still, he was a kid. He had a wonderful spirit of play."

Priscilla said she was "very nervous" about the show's opening night and will be sitting in the middle of the audience Friday.

"I like to watch the audience reaction, see their faces, see kind of what they're feeling," she said.

Asked if she thought the show was "very Vegas," she told King, "I think it will be a nice surprise for people... You can make it pretty much what you want, but you will be entertained. And it's Vegas. What can I say? It is Vegas."

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