Kool Kats and the Best Elvis in Vegas

Matt Lewis, the “Best Elvis in Vegas,” impersonates the King of Rock and Roll. (Photo courtesy of Matt Lewis)

Charlottesville’s beloved Big Ray and the Kool Kats, and world-renowned Elvis impersonator, Matt Lewis, are returning to The Paramount for Christmas with Elvis on Saturday, December 7.

Named the “Best Elvis in Vegas” by USA Today, Matt Lewis has been performing as the King of Rock and Roll since he was twelve years old. By the time he turned twenty-one, he was headlining Las Vegas’s longest running, world famous show, “Legends in Concert.”

Formed in 1996, Big Ray and the Kool Kats is led by trumpeter and longtime professional musician Ray Caddell. Named one of Modern Bride Magazine’s “Best Wedding Bands in America,” Big Ray and the Kool Kats can perform literally thousands of songs.

Matt and Ray performed together at The Paramount in 2017, but Ray told us he was a fan of Matt long before that.

Ray: My wife and I are big Las Vegas fans, so anytime [the Kool Kats] work there, my wife comes with us. About ten years ago, we started going to the “Legends in Concert” show in Las Vegas, all the way back in Imperial Palace days, so it’s been a while. The show changes every night, it’s sort of a rotating cast of impersonators. You might see Bette Midler, you might see Elton John, you might see The Temptations. But, the one thing that’s remained constant through all the years is that the show always closes with Elvis. As an entertainer, I was just so impressed with Matt all those times that we saw him. My wife said, “Why can’t we get him in Charlottesville?” And I said, “Well, I think we can.” I was on the programming committee for The Paramount for many years, so that’s how it started.

Matt, I read that you started performing as Elvis at age twelve—how exactly did that happen?

Matt: It was for a talent show at my junior high school. I took second place, and my best friend took first place. After that, people started asking me to perform at their parties, and they’d pay me a hundred bucks to come sing three songs; when you’re twelve, that’s a lot of money. I’d never seen a hundred-dollar bill! That’s kind of how it started. I went to college to be a school teacher and, ultimately, after five and a half years, I dropped my classes to be an Elvis impersonator.

What’s the most difficult part of impersonating Elvis?

Matt: I’ve been doing it for so long, I haven’t thought of anything as difficult… You know, the hardest part was learning to talk like him; I always kind of had the voice. I didn’t grow up in Memphis, so that has been the hardest part for me, but now it’s almost like turning on a light switch.

So Elvis is kind of like your alter ego now?

Matt: Exactly. I try not to take it home too much.

Ray, how did you get into music? Is it something you’ve done since you were a kid?

Ray: Yeah, it really is. I’m considerably older than Matt; in fact, I’m celebrating my fiftieth year of playing music for money. It started in the ’60s, and I was lucky enough to be in a band with a bunch of older guys. They had a house gig in the Latin Casino outside of Philadelphia, and I was fifteen years old playing behind everyone you can imagine: Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, The 5th Dimension, and Sammy Davis, Jr. It was a really lucky thing, and I’ve been playing ever since.

What has been your most memorable experience or performance?

Ray: You mean other than playing with Matt where I get to see the audience go absolutely berserk? If you watch me during the show, you’ll see I spend a lot of time conducting and a lot of time looking out into the audience, because it’s just stunning to see the looks on their faces. There are some people out there who I’m not sure understand that Matt isn’t actually Elvis Presley.

Matt: For me, it was when I performed in Switzerland. I sang in English, but I did all my lines in German. I learned it all phonetically because I don’t speak German. That was probably one of my greatest accomplishments; I did that for about three months, and it was a great gig.

Matt Lewis performs as Elvis and Big Ray conducts the Kool Kats during their live performance at The Paramount in 2017. (Photo by Rob Garland Photographers)

What’s your favorite song to perform?

Ray: That’s easy—Matt just destroys something that Elvis closed a lot of shows with: “American Trilogy.” I get chills every time we do it, to hear him sing it, and when I see the people stand up and sing along and salute, it’s just astonishing. So that’s an easy one for me: “American Trilogy.”

Matt: For me, it’s “If I Can Dream.” Elvis closed his ’68 Comeback Special with it. I love the horns; I love the whole feel of it.

Ray: The interesting thing about that song is—you know, it’s not like “Teddy Bear” or something. The interesting thing about “If I Can Dream” is it’s the one song that shows to me what a great singer of all kinds Elvis Presley was, and, by extension, Matt. I mean, that’s a real piece of music. And, by the way, we will play that at The Paramount, along with “American Trilogy.” You can always count on those two showing up.

Is there anything in particular about the Christmas show at The Paramount you’re excited for?

Matt: Elvis has some amazing Christmas music; he did a whole Christmas album. It’s great to play it with a big band. It’s just a magical time of year, and I think Elvis is definitely a big part of a lot of people’s Christmas.

Ray: The other nice thing about it is, Elvis was a deeply religious guy, and a very fine gospel artist as well. That will give us an opportunity to do some songs that we might not ordinarily play in the regular show. There are only so many minutes, and Elvis had dozens and dozens and dozens of gold records. But, when it’s Christmas, we get to do some special things like “Blue Christmas” and “How Great Thou Art.”

Matt: Ray, did you get “How Great Thou Art” on the set list?

Ray: I don’t remember if I put it on there in writing, but we’re definitely playing it. We have to be ready for it—tell the story about the last time we were in North Carolina.

Matt: Oh yeah, when we were in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, the audience kept wanting me to do “How Great Thou Art.” We hadn’t rehearsed it, we weren’t planning on doing it, but they kept yelling out that they wanted it. So, I started singing a little bit of it acapella, and then the piano player came in, and slowly the band started coming in. And then, I swear, four gentlemen from different parts of the audience came up and started singing. Before the song was over, we had a four-part harmony, we had the whole band, nobody had rehearsed it, and the audience went ballistic. It was one of those magical moments.

What it is that made you want to come perform at The Paramount again?

Matt: I just love playing with Ray. Earlier this year, he and I talked about possibly putting together a Christmas show, and it just seemed like a really good fit and we hadn’t done that yet.

Ray: I want people to understand—one nice thing about Matt’s show is, sometimes people come to theaters, and they’ve never been there to see anything before, but they come because they’re Elvis fans. I want people to understand what a great place The Paramount is to see a concert. The sightlines are fabulous, the sound and lights are beautiful; it’s just absolutely a jewel box.

Literal Translation from the French: The Flying Karamazov Brothers

The Karamazov Brothers in action. (Photo courtesy of SRO Artists, Inc.)

The Flying Karamazov Brothers features the four self-proclaimed eccentric lunatics spicing things up with a zany showcase filled with laugh-out-loud comedy, wild theatrics, arcane errata, and astonishing juggling feats. Formed at UC Santa Cruz in 1973, The Flying Karamazov Brothers have been seen around the world, on Broadway, on television, and on the big screen. The troupe, which takes its name from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov, will fly onto the stage live at The Paramount on Thanksgiving weekend. Almost as excited for their upcoming show as we are, the troupe members were kind enough to sit down with The Paramount to answer a few questions.

Paul Magid, aka Dmitri Karamazov, the troupe’s last original member, has been with the Flying Karamazov Brothers since he co-founded it almost 47 years ago.

Roderick Kimball, aka Pavel Karamazov, is from a town in Maine called Presque Isle—literal translation from the French: “Almost an island.” Pavel was shocked to realize he’s been with the troupe for just over 20 years. Time must fly when you’re—well, flying.

Andy Sapora, aka Nikita Karamazov, is from Westminster, Maryland. Literal translation from the French: “Almost worth growing up there.” Nikita has been with the troupe for almost 20 years; “I think I might be becoming one of those guys who has ear hairs,” he admits.

Steven Horstmann, aka Vanka Karamazov, is from “the inhospitable snowdrifts of the vast and desolate frozen tundra.” Literal translation from the French: “Minnesota.” Vanka has been with the troupe for just over 10 years; “So there’s still hope for me yet!” he proclaims.

Dmitri Karamazov (Paul Magid) juggles a few of the safer objects that appear in the show. (Photo courtesy of SRO Artists, Inc.)

Why did you join the Flying Karamazov Brothers?

Pavel (Roderick): I had been a fan of the group for ten years before I started working with them. For a solo performer in the trenches of variety entertainment, that’s a pretty good break.

Nikita (Andy): I thought it was the bus to Poughkeepsie.

Vanka (Steven): It was the top result in my high school aptitude test. #3: Doctor, #2: Lawyer, #1: Juggler/musician/comedian. I thought it was strange, but you just don’t argue with standardized testing.

What was the most challenging skill or trick for you to learn?

Dmitri (Paul): One of the most challenging tricks is playing a marimba while juggling, tap dancing, singing in harmony, and playing harmonica, all while keeping the beat with belled stupid hats, and, of course, chewing gum! Doing this means doing six different things at once. It fits perfectly into stupid and absurdly hard all at once!

Pavel: I don’t want to give away too much, but there’s a piece toward the end of the show where I juggle a frying pan, a block of dry ice, and a saltshaker while Dmitri is throwing stuff at me and I’m throwing stuff at Vanka. That’s a pretty tough one.

Nikita: You know, Pavel, I’m just now finally understanding why your throws on that trick are so hard to catch. You’re supposed to be throwing them to me. Vanka is usually backstage with the extra eggs and the champagne glass tray at that point. If you’re aiming for him back there, that definitely explains a lot.

Vanka: So that’s where those flying eggs are coming from!

The brothers strike a pose. (Photo courtesy of SRO Artists, Inc.)

What is your favorite trick to perform?

Pavel: That would be the piece we call “Jazz.” It’s improvisational interactive juggling. The piece has a basic structure, but mostly, it’s just us playing. If the audience likes it half as much as I do, they’re having a pretty good time.

Dmitri: I agree with Pavel. Jazz juggling is incredible, fun, always new for us and the audience. It’s also funny while we riff and juggle and play with the very meaning of improvisation!

Nikita: “4 x 4.” We play and sing a beautiful love song for two voices, guitar, euphonium, sopranino recorder, all while juggling three balls. However…no one person plays more than half of any instrument. As we stand shoulder to shoulder, Pavel and Dmitri share the juggle of three balls with their two outside hands. Pavel uses his inside hand to play half the buttons on the recorder and he also blows into the recorder (with his mouth). I use my right hand to play the other three buttons on the recorder, and I hold the euphonium with my left hand and blow into the euphonium (with my mouth). Vanka plays the fingerings on the euphonium (backwards!) while he frets the chords on the guitar. Dmitri (remember Dmitri?) strums the guitar with his inside hand (the one he’s not using to juggle with Pavel from way back at the other end of the line). Meanwhile, Dmitri and Vanka, since they’re not blowing into any instruments (with their mouths) are able to sing the beautiful lyrics in harmony (with their mouths). I like this trick because it looks exactly as hard as it was to learn. And because, if I were in the audience, it is exactly what I would want to see.

Vanka: My favorite is the “Gamble,” where audience members bring random objects for one of us to try to juggle. People have brought the craziest things over the years, from octopuses (octopi?) to a frozen gallon of milk covered in coconut oil. My favorite part about it? It’s Dimitri that has to do the juggling! Yikes!

Paul, why did you co-found the Flying Karamazov Brothers, and why have you stuck with the troupe for so long?

Dmitri (Paul): I invented it to have fun, do theatre I was interested in, and to be with my family of friends. I have loved doing this job from the day I conceived of it. It’s been my passion and life’s work. I hope that it continues past my brief time in this particular juggling pattern.

2018-2019 Annual Report and Fall Newsletter

The Paramount Theater’s most recently completed fiscal year was another one filled with success and community impact. With 299 events, there was rarely a quiet moment in the Theater.

The Paramount hosted more than 111,000 patrons, which included a record-breaking Arts Education season with 18,667 students and teachers. Furthermore, only 62% of generated revenue came from Theater operations, while the remaining 38% came from our generous donors. For more of this year’s exceptional statistics, and for the latest news about what’s happening this fall at The Paramount, check out our 2018-2019 Annual Report and Fall 2019 Newsletter.











Secret Agent 23 Skidoo helps students find their groove

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and his ensemble of dancers and singers perform at The Paramount Theater. (Photo by Taylor Matousek)

Nine hundred 2nd through 6th grade students from local schools danced in their seats at The Paramount Theater last Tuesday, October 29, as part of the daytime Arts Education Program. GRAMMY-Winning hip hop artist, Cactus Sullivan, better known as “Secret Agent 23 Skidoo,” brought the house down with his infectious rhymes and funky beats.

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo combines the excitement of hip hop with the magical world of childhood. His music centers on positive themes of empowerment, love, imagination, hope, ambitions, and dreams. His 2016 album Infinity Plus One won the Best Children’s Album of the Year at the 59th GRAMMY Awards. USA Today said of Skidoo, “He empowers kids to be themselves.”

A breakdancer performs amazing moves. (Photo by Taylor Matousek)

On stage with Secret Agent 23 Skidoo was his ensemble of incredible vocalists and acrobatic dancers, who performed amazing breakdance moves. The gravity-defying dancers were a hit with the students. A Woodbrook Elementary 2nd grader said his favorite part of the show was when one of the dancers spun on his head. “I danced, too,” he added, “and I almost did a flip—I didn’t, but I really wanted to.”

A 3rd grade student at Woodbrook Elementary School also enjoyed the performance. “The show was amazing!” she said. “Every part was my favorite part because I had fun with my friends.”

The day before the performance, Skidoo and his crew paid a visit to Walker Upper Elementary School to lead a group of 6th grade music students in a hip hop song writing workshop. Skidoo shared some of his own rhymes and beats, and then challenged the students to write their own hip hop verses. Students slowly plucked up the courage to share their own raps, and those who were brave enough to take up the mic received enthusiastic support from their peers.

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo leads a hip hop song writing workshop at Walker Upper Elementary. (Photo by Aaron Eichorst)

Cathy von Storch, Education & Outreach Manager at The Paramount, attended the writing workshop and was awed at Skidoo’s ability to get students out of their comfort zone. “The whole crew are obviously gifted artists, and they also have special gifts in working with children,” said von Storch. “The level of student engagement, enthusiasm, smiles, amazing writing, courage at the mic, all spoke volumes of those gifts.”

von Storch also shared some of the overwhelmingly positive feedback she’s received from the teachers who attended Skidoo’s live show. One teacher wrote, “This was an incredible performance! It is definitely one of the most exciting, engaging and powerful performances I have ever brought students to, and they absolutely loved it!” Another teacher shared that students said it was their favorite performance at The Paramount ever.

Students get their groove on at Secret Agent 23 Skidoo’s live show. (Photo by Taylor Matousek)

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo’s show was just one of eleven live arts performances scheduled for area students during the 2019-20 school year. The Paramount Arts Education Program is committed to presenting the finest arts education performances for students in Central Virginia. A record-breaking 18,667 students and teachers attended Arts Education performances last year, and over 195,000 have attended since 2004. With the support of Arts Education Partners, The Paramount Theater is able to offer performances at a reduced cost or free of charge, thus ensuring that these programs are accessible to all students.

Celebrating National Arts in Education Week


Sunday, September 8th, 2019 marked the first day of National Arts in Education Week 2019!

In 2010, Congress passed the House Resolution 275 which designates the second week of September National Arts in Education Week. During this week, the field of arts education joins together in communities across the country to tell the story of the impact of the transformative power of the arts in education. The 2019 celebration of National Arts in Education Week is dedicated to the memory of Ms. Carol Channing, whose advocacy efforts led to the creation of the national celebration in 2010. Read the statement here.

The Paramount is celebrating this week, and will continue the celebration throughout our upcoming Arts Education season with eleven high quality educational and enriching programs for young audiences. We hope you will join us!

Don’t miss our upcoming Arts Education season!

The 2019-2020 MET Live in HD Season



CLICK HERE to access the digital version of the 2019-2020 Metropolitan Opera Season Announce Brochure where you can learn about the ten operas coming to The Paramount’s Big Screen this season. Tickets to all 10 MET broadcasts are on sale now!

2018-19 Education Season Wrap-Up


This season, we were thrilled to welcome a record-breaking 18,667 students and teachers from around Central Virginia and make great memories with artists from all over North America. On average, our Arts Education Program serves over 16,000 students and teachers annually – and in total, more than 195,160 since 2004! We were also pleased to have assisted nearly 4,800 students with financial assistance beyond the subsidized ticket price of $8.50. Read more below for a breakdown of this season’s highlights – and stay tuned for 2019-20 Education Season programming details!

By The Numbers:

  • 18,667 students and teachers attended performances in 2018-19
  • Attendees were from 60 public schools, 25 private schools, and 56 home school groups
  • Nearly 4,800 students were impacted by financial assistance
  • 10 productions and 23 performances in total on The Paramount’s stage, including:

Theatre Heroes’ Call of the Wild: Illustrated Edition; Black Violin; Theaterworks USA’s Dragons Love Tacos & Other Stories!; National Players’ The Crucible; Childsplay’s Tomás and the Library Lady; Enchantment Theatre Company’s The Phantom Tollbooth; Mad River Theater Works’ Freedom Bound; Theater Unspeakable’s The American Revolution; Bay Area Children’s Theatre’s Peg + Cat Live; and Dallas Children’s Theater’s Diary of a Worm, A Spider, and A Fly.

Our Favorite Moments:

Based on the Emmy-winning PBS Kids show, Peg + Cat Live! was chock full of lessons about math, problem solving, and caring for others. Clark Elementary students say THANK YOU!
Theatre Heroes actor/storyteller, Noel Gaulin conducted a post-show workshop titled “Bringing the Words Alive” with 25 Walton Middle School 7th graders who attended the show and were reading the novel.
This exhilarating violin/viola hip-hop duo, along with DJ & drummer, had students singing and dancing, while learning about contemporary and traditional music. The musicians’ personal stories were shared with inspirational messages about breaking stereotypes and pursuing dreams.
An original theatrical work created and produced by Chicago’s award-winning Theater Unspeakable. Students from Agnor Hurt Elementary surprised us with dozens of handwritten thank you letters sharing favorite parts of the performance and thanking us and our sponsor.


Over 235 teachers responded to post-performance surveys, and dozens of students shared their reactions through letters and art work – here’s what they had to say!

“The performance [Call of the Wild] was exceptional, and our students were blown away by the ability of a single actor to play so many roles!” – Walton Middle School, 7th Grade Teacher

“This performance exceeded expectations. We want our students to see themselves as artists and performers. Having Black Violin members talk directly about their experiences in school and their choice to study violin in spite of criticism and stereotypes is exactly the kind of examples that help broaden the student imagination for what is possible.” – Aaron Eichorst, Fine & Performing Arts Coordinator, Charlottesville City Schools

“Our class loved that the performance [Tomás and the Library Lady] was bilingual and how they explained things as they went along. We wrote letters to “our library lady” (our librarian) to share our gratitude for sharing the love of reading with us. We believe in sharing with our children to be accepting of all people, share a love for all people, and create relationships. What a great way this performance did that for our students… all through the love of reading.” – Agnor Hurt Elementary School, K-2 Teacher

“Our kids were enthralled with the performance [Dragons Love Tacos]. They wrote about their experience in the theater and compared the play to the books. Literacy standards were met in abundance and the experience of being in the theater was one of the most valuable parts of our day!” – Woodbrook Elementary School, 1st Grade Teacher

“Actors are masters of inferencing, and they showed our students how many meanings lie behind the words. This was incredibly valuable and helped our students from all levels better access difficult reading material. We would do it again in a heartbeat.” – Monticello High School, 11th Grade Teacher

“We found the choice of The Crucible a strong complement to our curriculum, and we especially enjoyed the discussion of the technical aspects during the “talk-back”. From the informative study-guide, to the timely choice of show, to the wonderfully executed performance by the National Players, this show exceeded our expectations.” – Home school Group

“The value of coming to The Paramount Theater goes beyond the SOLs we teach.  The students get to see a story come alive in a beautiful theater.  They are captivated during the play, and then as a teacher we get to use this excitement to review and dig deeper into the SOLs.  Our students also were mesmerized by Charlottesville and the downtown mall. What a great experience for our students!” – Churchville Elementary School, 2nd Grade Teacher

“We absolutely love Mad River Theater Works and their performances are a highlight for our students each year. The original music was terrific and provided a strong connection for our students. My students were able to connect and follow the story line more closely because we made real-world connections to the true history that inspired the play before going to see the performance. The educational value of this performance was great for my students.” – Peabody School, 3rd Grade Teacher

“This was one of our favorite plays [Diary of a Worm, a Spider, and a Fly] to go see! We loved how diverse the characters were and the language they used. It really reflected where our kids come from.” – Johnson Elementary School, Kindergarten Teacher

4th & 5th grade students from Agnor Hurt Elementary react to Freedom Bound:

“Thank you for having us come to see the play Freedom Bound at The Paramount. My favorite parts of the play were dramatics. I also loved the singing and lighting. It was very nice that the play was sponsored by: UVA Office of the Vice President & Chief Officer for Diversity & Equity.”

“I liked the part where Amanda helped the person of color to write his name and then he came back to read it. I did not like the Marshall. He did not know the suffering they were going through. Thank you very much for the theater and Freedom Bound.”

“Thank you for having us come to see the play. I had lots of fun. I liked when the actors were singing songs. I can’t wait for the next show. I hope I will be coming to a lot of your shows because your shows are really fun to watch!”

“One of the things I liked was the singing and my second favorite part was the acting. It showed me to be good to people. Thank you and the UVA Office of the Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity for sponsoring Freedom Bound.”


Black Violin
Diary of a Worm , a Spider, and a Fly
Photo Courtesy of Andrew Shurtleff
The Crucible
Diary of a Worm , a Spider, and a Fly
Photo Courtesy of Andrew Shurtleff

Carpet Instillation Time Lapse

Check out our makeover! 1,000,000 patrons later, our flooring is shiny and new!

Check out the time lapse video below.

An Exclusive Interview with Trockadero, Robert Carter

Check out our exclusive interview with a member of ballet company, Les Ballets Trockadero, who will be performing LIVE ON STAGE Saturday, April 20 at 8:00PM.

Keep reading to learn more from group member, Robert Carter, about the influences and inspirations that keep him on stage.

Q: What inspired you to start dancing?

A: “I can’t speak for everyone else because we all have such varied histories. My beginning was at the age of seven and a half. My mother wanted for me to try it and see if I liked it. After the first time, I couldn’t wait to come back. Since then my life has always revolved around dancing.”

Q: What influenced you in your mission to mix comedy and dance?

A: “I can’t say my “mission” was to be a comedian dancer, but having comedy be a part of your everyday work is a big plus. I’ve always only ever wanted to be the artist that I am. The fact that I’m able to combine and use facets of my artistry to create a unique product that is different from the norm is something I value greatly and use as my influence.”

Q: What has been your favorite place to travel for a performance and why?

A: “This is not an easy question to answer. Over the course of my tenure with the company I’ve been fortunate to be present for a lot of firsts in the company history as well as some of the more memorable moments that will stand out over the course of time. My favorite place overall has no real destination. All I need is a full, enthusiastic audience and the stage.”

Thank you, Robert, for sharing your insights with us. We can’t wait to see the performance this Saturday!