Every night, Jay Dupuis puts on a white suit with a red tie, and steps onto a stage to perform the song “If I Can Dream.”
Elvis Presley recorded the song just a few months after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Dupuis said, and the lyrics introduce this question: “If I can dream of a better land, where all my brothers walk hand in hand, tell me why, why can’t my dream come true?”
Dupuis values the “beautiful message” of this song, and as he sings the lyrics, he can’t help but think every night how his own dream has come true.
“My whole life, I knew this was something that I wanted to do,” Dupuis said in a phone interview. “I always wanted to give a tribute to Elvis Presley. So every night when I sing ‘If I Can Dream’ I look up and say ‘Thank you Jesus for giving me this opportunity to sing this song.’”
Dupuis, who was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is one of three Elvis tribute artists featured in "Elvis Lives," a multimedia musical that walks viewers through the life of Elvis Presley. The tour will be making a stop at the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City on Feb. 18.
Dupuis’ introduction to Presley came when he was 3 and his mom put on a record of the song “Hound Dog.” Although the song is actually about a “no good guy who has done a woman wrong,” Dupuis said as a little kid all he heard were the words “hound dog” and he thought it was funny.
When he was a little older, Dupuis wanted to learn more about Presley, and his mother supported this desire, buying books, tapes and anything else that would teach him about the "king of rock ’n’ roll," he said.
In his early 30s, Dupuis thought he had missed his chance to fulfill his dream of being an Elvis tribute artist. With the help and encouragement of friends, he participated in competitions and in 2014, won the annual Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist contest held in Memphis, Tennessee.
He said it was a relief winning this contest and an incredible reward for all of his hard work and practice. He is also grateful for the many opportunities the competition has given him to portray Presley on stage, most recently with the "Elvis Lives" tour.
This is Dupuis’ third year with the tour, and he said he is “blessed” to pay tribute to Presley on a nightly basis, along with two other tribute artists, Bill Cherry and Dean Z., who were also winners of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist contest in 2009 and 2013, respectively, according to a news release. Each represents Presley during different stages of his career.
He has enjoyed being a part of the "Elvis Lives" tour and said it is a "remarkable" production because, through video and audio clips provided by Graceland Archives, Presley is the narrator of the show. The clips provide funny anecdotes, background information and other insights into Presley's life, Dupuis said. As the show progresses, audience members can see not only the artist's changes in style and wardrobe, but also changes in his development and maturity level.
"Elvis is walking you through his life,” he said. “It’s almost like we’re educating (the audience) at the same time we’re entertaining them.”
Dupuis "can't wait" to bring this production to Utah. He has never visited the state, and he said he is "extremely excited" to perform for Presley fans here.
As a “true Elvis fan,” Dupuis finds it touching that no matter where he travels, he always sees so many faces, young and old, in the crowd.
"That's so rewarding to know that Elvis is still that big in this world," he said.
And for the younger people who may be attending the show, Dupuis hopes that it will give them an introduction to Presley that will inspire them to "go look him up and listen to the greatest entertainer that ever walked the face of this Earth."
If you go ...
What: "Elvis Lives"
When: Saturday, Feb. 18, 8 p.m.
Where: Eccles Theater, 115 Main St., Salt Lake City
How much: $25-60