When it comes to unique entertainment, Better Health’s Evening at the Theater is hard to beat. This annual fundraiser supports Better Health and its mission to provide for the unmet healthcare needs of Cumberland County residents through assistance, referral and education; it does it through an evening of fun and laughter. Boasting an over-the-top 1970s Vegas theme, the event is Feb. 28 at Highland Country Club.
The evening would not be complete without a casino and a performance by none other than the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley or, in this case, Elvis tribute artist Wayne Euliss.
The evening begins with heavy hors d’oeuvres and drinks from 7-8 p.m.
“The casino is open then and there is lots to do,” said Better Health Executive Director Judy Klinck.
The show starts at 8 p.m. and runs until about 9:15 p.m. Long-time favorite Cassandra Vallery is the opening act with Elvis as the main show. Coffee and dessert will follow after the show and the casino will remain open until 10 p.m.
Upon their arrival at Highland Country Club, each ticketholder will receive a $10,000 voucher that they can cash in for chips to use in the casino.
“At the end of the night the person who has won the most in the casino will receive a prize,” said Klinck. “We have one prize — it is a gift basket of premium liquors donated by board members.
”Euliss, aka Elvis, grew up listening to the King, but he never really planned on becoming an entertainer.
“My mom was a big Elvis fan. She was in high school in the ‘50s and she had an influence on me,” said Euliss. “Growing up, I would hear his records and I did sing some as a teen. I would goof around at parties and do Elvis impersonations, but I never pursued a career. When I would imitate Elvis and goof around, people would tell me I sound a lot like him.”
It is quite a leap from goofing around and entertaining friends to becoming a professional tribute artist and for Euliss, it was a sweet gesture to his wife that changed things for him.
“About 10 years ago, on a whim, I decided to surprise my wife at her birthday party,” he recalled. “I rented a cheesy suit and sang her a song and did my best Elvis impersonation. After that our friends and then their friends started asking me to come to perform at their birthdays and it just grew from there.”
Now Euliss is featured in theatrical pieces, works at festivals and performs up and down the East Coast from New York to Florida.
“I stay pretty busy with it, but I have worked for UPS for 24 years. I have to limit myself to weekend performances,” he said. “I do take Valentine’s Day week off though. I am always really busy that week.”
As Euliss has prospered in his role as Elvis, he has committed to delivering the most authentic experience he can, right down to the flashy embroidered jumpsuits.
“I have them custom made by the company that bought all the original designs and patterns of Elvis’ suits,” he explained. “They are custom made and it is an exact replica of the suit Elvis wore.”
Like many performers, Elvis reinvented himself several times through the course of his career. Euliss, though, sticks with what works for him and focuses on the Las Vegas version of Elvis in the 1970s. Euliss’ three-piece band accompanies him during the performance.
“We do a full-blown live Vegas-style show like Elvis did in the ‘70s,” said Euliss. “I sing the hits like “Hound Dog,” “All Shook Up,” “Burning Love” and a lot of other hits from his three-decade career. If you have seen videos of him during that time, he gave out silk scarves to some of the ladies in the audience and I do that, too. I realize I am not Elvis but when you are trying to recreate the image on stage, this is part of it and it seems to work for the audience, too.”
For almost two decades, Better Health has entertained Fayetteville with its Evening at the Theater. The show supports a great cause and for many it has become a much anticipated tradition.
“We look forward to seeing a lot of the same people come back year after year and support our shows,” said Klinck. “I look forward to getting everyone checked in so I can watch the shows, too. They get better every year.”
There is also a raffle as part of the event. You do not have to be present to win. Tickets are $10 or three for $25 and can be purchased by calling Better Health. The top prizes are: A suede wine carrier, accessories and picnic set with three bottles of premium wine, valued at $300; a14K gold drop pearl necklace with diamond accents, valued at $250; and a Renaissance European Day Spa package: manicure, pedicure and massage, valued at $150.
Last year Better Health helped 350 people live a healthy life with diabetes and touched 1,080 kids and parents to prevent childhood obesity. The organization loaned medical equipment to 291 families, saving countless dollars and keeping serviceable items out of the landfill. Better Health provided assistance to 1,423 individuals for prescriptions, emergency dental extractions, medical supplies, vision exam and eyeglasses and gas vouchers to out of town medical appointments.
Tickets to Better Health’s 18th Annual Evening at the Theater’s Viva Fay Vegas are $75 per person and can be purchased by calling 483-7534. Better Health is a United Way Community Partner.
Photo: What happens in Vegas helps save lives in Fayetteville, as Vegas comes to town during the Better Health Evening at the Theater fundraiser at Highland Country Club.