Tag Archives: impersonators

Elvis Presley Comes Back to Las Vegas

And you thought he was…dead?  Pshaw!  Elvis performed his last show in Las Vegas and now is back to his old Sin City haunts, if only in spirit.  But his show will, hopefully, run forever. 

Viva Elvis premiered on Feb. 19 and is the seventh Cirque du Soleil show on the Las Vegas Strip. It is one of the centerpieces of the new $8.5 billion MGM Mirage CityCenter, located in a new theater in the Aria Hotel and Casino. 

Viva Elvis features all of his greatest hits set to music and embellished with spectacular sets and effects, dancing and acrobatics. It positively fills the eyes-all the time steering clear of the somber and darker sides of Elvis, thanks to the untiring efforts of Priscilla Presley and Elvis Presley Enterprises to protect the Elvis legacy. 

This is a spectacularly beautiful show and it is one of only two Cirque shows in Las Vegas to employ a proscenium stage rather than using a theater-in-the-round setup. 

There are other singers, but the only male voice belongs to The King himself. The evening opens witha huge video-jukebox. On the screen is Elvis singing Blue Suede Shoes. It’s light, fun and immediately gets the audience in the mood for more of his music. Don’t Be Cruel is next, followed by Junior Clay, the only actor in the show. He is Elvis’ manager, Col. Tom Parker. He comes out to explain that Elvis had a twin brother who died at birth and Elvis missed his twin his entire life. Thus he introduces the next number, One Night– a love song, more shouted than sung and is very effective. But here, for some reason, it’s used to portray brotherly love. 

Two acrobats do their schtick on a large wire guitar suspended upstage center. As they’re doing their acrobatics, there’s a woman sitting at an old upright piano softly playing and singing the song. No argument that Elvis missed his twin. And no argument that these two guys on the guitar are really good at what they do. The only argument is against taking such a passionate number and doing this to it. 

The next scene goes back to Elvis’ childhood in Tupelo, MS. Old photos are projected on the screen as the townsfolk carrying umbrellas come out on the stage and perform All Shook Up as a gospel tune. And the woman singing the song actually changes the lyrics to say “I’m itchin’ like a woman on fuzzy tree.”

The spectacle is a grand and joyous event that will stick in your mind for a long time — a terrific celebration of Elvis’ music. The dancing and acrobatics are lavish and exuberant. The on-stage band is exellent. And the production values are incomparable. It’s just plain fun to watch with wonderful sets, colorful costumes and captivating special effects. 

Yes, the show is a bit pricey in a struggling Las Vegas economy, tickets ranging from $114 to $200, but well worth the price if you can afford it.  Shows are at 7 and 9:30 p.m., Fridays though Tuesdays.  702-531-2031. 

Long live The King!

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“Country Superstars Tribute” Act Temporarily Ends in Las Vegas

CountryStarsTributeThe “Country Superstars Tribute” is wrapping up their performances at Fitzgeralds in Las Vegas on June 28, with the “Marriage Can Be Murder” dinner show moving in the next day. 

The country show with the “Legends’ impersonator format has been growing strong for two years and more than 500 shows.  But the live band and multi-act format proved to be top-heavy for the room, which only seats about 120 people. 

Ron Keel, who originally co-produced and performed as Ronnie Dunn, has been spending more time out of the show, trying to revive his ‘80s rock band, Keel.  Producer Leonard Quenneville hopes to find a Las Vegas venue large enough to support the show’s format. 

“Marriage” will put the audience closer to fellow suspects when the dinner show gives up the Canyon Club at Four Queens for the cozier space at Fitzgeralds.

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Previously Jailed Celebrity Impersonator Trina-Johnson Finn Returns to Las Vegas Home

Las Vegas celebrity impersonator Trina Johnson-Finn arrived back at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Wednesday evening, reunited with her husband and realtor, Raymond Finn, and a throng of well-wishers and fellow Las Vegas celebrity tribute artists that were shouting, waving and offering up balloons and flowers, including Willie Nelson (Roy Hammock), Jimi Hendrix (Jimi Taylor), Elvis (Greg Miller), Celine Dion (Elisa Furr), and Liza Minnelli (Suzanne Goulet).  

The former backup singer for Barbara Streisand and MC Hammer was finally back, united among friends and family, 15 pounds lighter after being jailed for more than 100 days in the South American nation of Suriname, surviving on a diet of mostly rice and fish. She was recently acquitted of all charges as reported by Las Vegas Backstage Access

She was accused of fraud after a South American promoter tried passing her off as the real deal Toni Braxton. She was told she was going to lip-sync five Braxton songs at a birthday party, but instead the “party” turned out to be a full-blown concert with hundreds of people paying more than $50 a ticket.  The crowd ultimately got the ruse, became unruly, verbally abusing and pelting her with bottles before she was arrested. 

“The first thing I’m going to do is sleep.  And maybe have a cocktail,” Finn said upon her return.

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Las Vegas Tribute Artist Trina Johnson-Finn Released in Suriname

A judge in Suriname on Friday released Las Vegas entertainer Trina Johnson-Finn who was accused of posing as singer Toni Braxton at a concert there where she was pelted with trash and booed offstage. 

The 20-year professional singer who has augmented her career by impersonating stars as a “tribute artist” is now planning her return to Las Vegas to be with her husband, Raymond Finn, emotionally drained and financially devastated after the ordeal. 

Finn, who had spent three months in jail there, said she would not be present at her formality sentencing hearing on Tuesday. 

Finn has repeatedly said she was not involved in the impersonation scheme cover up that charged up to $53 per ticket for the Feb. 28 concert in Suriname’s capital.  A crowd of 3,000 threw bottles and beer cans at Finn in what has been dubbed the “Phony Toni” concert. 

The promoters Angel Ventura and his girlfriend Signet Sampson, though, remain in custody there and are expected to stand trial in July. 

Please see  April 25 and May 7 Las Vegas Backstage Access articles covering this case.

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450-pound Drag Queen Voted Best Joan Rivers Look-Alike in Las Vegas

Cher Impersonator Tiny Bubbles, a 450-pound drag queen, was voted best Joan Rivers look-alike at Annie Duke’s Hard Rock poker benefit in Las Vegas last Wednesday. 

The event featured 20 Rivers impersonators.   Frank Marino, who headlined as Rivers in “An Evening at La Cage” for two decades walked the red carpet with Duke, who finished second in “Celebrity Apprentice” to Rivers. 

Rivers previously labeled poker players as “white trash” and “mafia” during “Apprentice,” as written on  May 27  by Las Vegas Backstage Access.

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Celebrity Impersonator Frank Marino to Star in Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding in Las Vegas

Las Vegas celebrity impersonator Frank Marino’s, the star of the Riviera’s now-defunct “An Evening at La Cage,” inFrankMarino2 which he hosted the show as a Joan Rivers impersonator for more than 20 years, has packed his bags and on May 8 he’ll be performing in the role of the “special guest” in the dinner and comedy show Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding at the Planet Hollywood Resort Casino in Las Vegas. 

Marino will be bringing all his Bob Mackie gowns, glittering Manolo Blahnik stilettos and makeup bags with him in his role that is planned to run through the end of May. 

Marino is also the local ABC affiliate’s “Dancing With the Stars” correspondent, on which he critiques who was great, who was awful and whose costume sparkled the brightest on the hit program, now in its seventh season.

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Las Vegas Benefit Concert on May 2 for Trina Johnson-Finn

On May 2 a benefit concert will be held in Las Vegas for Las Vegas celebrity impersonator Trina Johnson-Finn, who has been jailed in South America for more than seven weeks.   trinajohnsonfinn

Johnson-Finn goes on trial in early May on charges of fraudulently performing as Tony Braxton in the South American nation of Suriname. 

Johnny Stuart, longtime operator of the “Legends In Concert,” is having the event at his Legends Ranch from noon to 8 p.m.

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All Rise: The King is Back in the Building

For some, death is really not in their cards, it’s just a lifetime spent in purgatory.

Keeping with tradition, Las Vegas will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley this July with one of the largest Elvis conventions in the world. According to John Stuart, a long-time Las Vegas producer and the mastermind behind “Legends in Concert,” an award-winning celebrity impersonation show in Las Vegas, the idea is to bring back to faux life “all major people who were in the original concert 40 years ago.”

Though not an original Elvis band member, Sean Klush, the BBC’s “World’s Greatest Elvis” in 2007 is also planning to make his sparkling appearance. 

Elvis fans will get a a chance to take a special backstage tour and even participate in an Elvis impersonation contest. 

The King’s once-in-a-lifetime revival extravaganza is scheduled for July 15 through 19 at the Las Vegas Hilton.

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Elvis is Back in the House

There are Elvis impersonators aplenty in Las Vegas, but one of the most popular is Trent Carlini.  Starting this Monday, March 9, Carlini will be officially launching “Elvolution” for seven shows each week in Steve Wryick’s magic theater in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. trentcarlini

Carlini, who came to Las Vegas in 1990, performing in “Legends in Concert” for six years, then followed for five years in “The Dream Kings” in the Boardwalk, says the “Elvolution” title is about how much Elvis fandom has evolved since Elvis’ death in 1977.  “People are actually appreciating the (tribute) artist’s talent other than enjoying the Elvis music.  People recognize me more as a talent more than someone just hiding behind a mask.”

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‘Legends in Concert’ Las Vegas Show Upgraded After 26 Years

legendsTomorrow, February 21, the third longest-running show in Las Vegas, behind only “Follies Bergere” (closing this March) and “Jubilee!” gives its last performance in its longtime home at the Imperial Palace on The Strip.  It reopens on Monday, February 23 at Harrah’s Las Vegas, sharing the main showroom with comedian Rita Rudner (prior Las Vegas Backstage Access blog article).

“Legends in Concert” is marking the move to make some long-delayed upgrades and relaunch their show that’s somewhat become a victim of its own success.

When original producer-director John Stuart introduced the show to the Strip in May 1983, it was quite the in place to go.  Departed Las Vegas greats such as Bobby Darin returned and shared stage time with other ill-fated stars who never made it to the Sands.  Buddy Holly and Janis Joplin were part of the opening-week lineup.

But now, costumed impersonators- or “tribute artists” as they are affectionately called- are so widely accepted and a staple of entertainment, that few blink an eye when a new artist enters the fray.  Tributes to everyone from John Denver to Ozzy Osbourne are a regular staple of off-Strip local casinos, as well as tribal-owned casinos around the country.  And lately, the official versions of classic rock bands such as Journey and Styx have blurred the faux line even more by pulling in singers from the tribute circuit.

With so many look-alike and now sound-alike acts in Las Vegas and around the country, it’s been hard for “Legends” to maintain its authenticity and dominance.  What makes Elvis One better than Elvis Five?

Answering the challenge, the new “Legends” at Harrah’s has been reinvented and will feature a new accompanying video to put each act into the context of its original times.  And the format is trying harder to blend the “modular” approach that allowed acts to easily be swapped in an out and provide a refreshed audience experience over time. 

The show also has grown bolder about exploring its fanciful and alluring premise, letting some of its acts – and their underlying new visual technology – appear together and thus magnify the illusions.  One Christmas themed episode re-created the famous “Little Drummer Boy” duet between Bing Crosby and David Bowie.

Has “Legends in Concert” truly experienced a New Age rebirth?

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