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‘Hound Dog’: Elvis Meets Rap Music

Jeff Rake’s would-be musical sendup, “Hound Dog: A hip hOpera,” directed by Richard Hochberg at Hudson Avenue Theatre, examines the life of Elvis Presley--in rap. Why anyone would produce a two-act musical on such a surreal far-fetched conceit seems curious--especially in light of the production itself. It’s a theatrical black hole that, despite some lively performances, sucks the energy out of its bewildered onlookers.

In Rake’s weird story, two modern-day “posse” members (Wayne Brady and Kevin Williams) travel back in time to teach gullible country boy Elvis (Lance Zitron) everything they know about rap music. Somehow (your guess is as good as mine) their ultra-slick urban sensibilities inspire Elvis to become a musical genius and star.

Unfortunately, the dizzying, desultory blend of musical styles and tabloid-inspired plot points never coalesce into a disciplined whole. A sprightly Rasta-influenced number and an amusing duet between Elvis and Barbra Streisand (Pamela Shafer) almost salvage the second act. Despite these last-minute signs of life, however, “Hound Dog” remains imponderably pointless throughout.

* “Hound Dog: A hip hOpera,” Hudson Avenue Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m. Ends Dec. 20. $20. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes.

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