Years spent perfecting her Elvis hairdo in front of a mirror will pay off for Mojo Juju when she performs in an all-female homage to the King during the 2014 Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
The charismatic hoodoo blues singer and former frontwoman of the Snake Oil Merchants is returning in June for her third Cabaret Festival performance, this time with fellow vocalists Kira Puru, Stella Angelico and Simone Page-Jones.
“I’ve been a long-time fan,” Juju says of Presley.
“When I was about eight years old, I had a picture of Elvis that my uncle bought for me in Hawaii. I put it next to my dresser and I practised combing my hair just like Elvis when I got up.
“I’m still practising it – now I get to do it on stage in front of an audience.”
Hail to the King is the brainchild of Russall S Beattie, director of The Vanguard venue in Sydney and man behind productions such as the Dame of Thrones burlesque show and a Batman vaudeville show featuring a tap-dancing super-hero. Juju also starred in the latter –as the Penguin.
Each of the four vocalists in Hail to the King has their own distinctly different style, and rather than trying to mimic Elvis, they reinterpret his work in their own way.
“He [Beattie] wanted to see Elvis’s work reinterpreted by women,” says Juju.
“You see a lot of men doing the work of Elvis … but the thing about him that is so appealing and attractive is that he had this femininity about him. In his energy he was quite androgynous.
“Men and women alike looked at Elvis and found him attractive. He was very fluid in his movement and he had this incredible range, not just in terms of octaves but in terms of textures.”
Juju, who is often seen in a zoot suit and has a stage persona that harks back to the Pachuco Hispanic and Latin American subculture of the 1940s, is reluctant to draw a comparison between her own style and that of Elvis – aside, of course, from the hair – but says she has been told she has some of his cheekiness. And, as those who have seen her live will attest, the swagger.
Juju has a particular romance with Elvis’s music from the late 1950s and his films from the early ’60s, but says she has also grown to love his later work while working on Hail to the King.
Asked whether there were any arguments about who would perform which songs, she laughs: “There were catfights everywhere!” But the women, all of whom have collaborated previously, managed to come to a “diplomatic compromise” over a track list that encompasses every facet of Presley’s career.
There were a couple of songs Juju simply couldn’t pass up, including “One Night”, which was also recorded under the title of “One Night of Sin”.
“Obviously, I’ve chosen to do the sinful version.”
Hail to the King will be performed at the Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, from June 19-21 as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. The full festival line-up was revealed earlier this week and you can find out what else is in store in this InDaily preview. Tickets will be on sale from Friday.