Ask most 9-year-old boys what they want to be when they grow up and they might be expected to say “fireman,” “policeman” or “president.” But lifelong Glendale resident Jacob Roman’s dream was a little bit different: He wanted to grow up to be Elvis Presley, and he’s started a thriving career as an Elvis tribute artist performing at special events nationwide.
Now 21, Roman will make a triumphant hometown appearance at 7 p.m. Saturday when he co-stars with British Elvis Ben Thompson in the live extravaganza “The Wonder of Elvis.” The show finds Roman playing the 1950s-era “young Elvis,” with Thompson portraying the King of Rock and Roll in his 1968 comeback special and Vegas-jumpsuit years. For Roman, the show—which also features the 10-member Steamroller Blues, complete with a four-horn section and four backup singers — is one of his most exciting yet.
“I’m from Glendale and I live there still, so the Alex is a place I’ve always wanted to perform in,” says Roman. “When I got the call, I was stoked, so excited. It’s going to be awesome. I do shows like this all the time, though it’s the first time I’m working with Ben. I did a show last year in Downey with three other guys, with me playing young Elvis, another the movie-years Elvis, another as ’68 comeback Elvis and then a fourth playing jumpsuit Elvis. People went wild.”
Roman was introduced to the magic of Elvis when he saw an Elvis tribute show during a family vacation in Laughlin, Nevada. He was so transfixed that he told his mother he would be like Elvis the rest of his life, and he has followed through on that vow all the way to a full-time career.
He is fortunate to strongly resemble the King, noting that many pretenders to his throne do not. Yet Roman finds that sharing a physical resemblance often has no bearing on how good a performer actually is.
“I’ve seen guys that don’t look like him but they sound like him and they have the moves, and there’s guys who look like him but don’t have the voice,” says Roman. “I guess I got lucky with the looks, the moves and the voice. I studied Elvis 24 hours a day. I had to get it right.
“Elvis Presley is an American icon, so to me he’s something important,” Roman continues. “So I had to make sure I had every detail: the smile, the way he looked at people and the way he moved his hands. The wardrobe is all authentic, matching everything he wore, especially down to the rings.”
Roman blasts through a rapid-fire string of Elvis’ greatest hits during his 45-minute set, including “Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” and “Love Me Tender.” The fact that early-era rock songs were less than three minutes apiece enables Roman to keep fans happy, and he notes that “there’s something about the music that’s so good it always gets me excited too.”
But most importantly, Roman notes that even more than 40 years after Elvis’ untimely passing, the fans keep coming and a new generation disgusted with current pop hits is leading the charge.
“At a couple of shows lately, I’ve seen fans from 9 years old to 99,” says Roman. “Right now, it’s everybody. Even teenagers are starting to come to the show. Even if you’re not an Elvis fan and you come to the show, you’ll become an Elvis fan.“
Kwick Productions presents “The Wonder of Elvis” at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Tickets are $17.50 to $65. Call (818) 243-2539 or visit alextheatre.com.