by Terrance Mc Arthur
2012: Reedley’s River City Theatre Company presented Legends, a tribute show of look-alike/sound-alike performers in blasts from the past that played the old Ed Sullivan Show on television. It was really good.
2013: RCTC presented Legends Too, another compilation of Sullivan performances. It was really good, too.
2014: You have one more weekend to get to the Reedley Opera House for RCTC’s Legends Viva Las Vegas. You don’t want to miss it!
While the first two Legends shows were presided over by the spirit of Ed Sullivan, the Vegas edition is hosted by a genially lubricated Dean Martin played by Erik Valencia, who has warbled Dino’s songs in each Legends version. This time, he gets to sing “Mambo Italiano,” spar verbally with Jerry Lewis (Joseph Ham), and wave diamonds in front of Marilyn Monroe (Stacey Hall). Valencia also directed the proceedings with a loving hand, treating the original artists with respect. There are less sight gags this time, except…..
Jacob Alvarado “rips” up the place as Rip Taylor, replete with bad wig and waxed moustache, throwing out confetti…and prop-comedy lines that are mildly risqué (For those of you who don’t remember Taylor on Merv Griffin and “The Gong Show,” he was the comedic ancestor of Carrot Top.). His star turn is laugh-out-loud funny. Alvarado also gets to cruise the stage as Wayne Newton singing “Danke Schoen.”
Steve Jones, Neil Krentz, and Eric Herrera managed to wedge dizzying stairs and rectangles of red lights onto the vest-pocket stage of the Reedley Opera House, with a version of the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign in the background, appropriate for the Glitter Gulch setting.
Joseph Ham has the mannerisms and sound down to the smallest hesitation as Frank Sinatra singing “Luck Be a Lady.” He’s also a manic Jerry Lewis (Is there any other kind?) and one of the Four Seasons (Fall? Winter? I don’t know) in a Jersey Boys medley of hits, as well as a disco-era-thin Barry Manilow singing “Copacabana.”
Stacey Hall mixes sex and comedy as she channels the jokes of Phyllis Diller, Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” (in a wig that looks more like Shirley Temple than Marilyn), and a foot-stomping rendition of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking.”
Ron Surabian—a Reedley favorite—gets all Tony Bennett in “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” and closes his eyes to be Andrea Bocelli, dueting with Celine Dionne (Alina Gonzales), no mean feat. He even gets to be a sleazy Rico in the “Copacabana” sequence. Gonzales sings with gusto as Celine, gets a good cry going on Connie Francis’ “Where the Boys Are,” and shakes a lot as Charo, a sight to behold.
Jeff Lusk played an older Sinatra in earlier “Legends” shows, but he leaves “Old Blue Eyes to Joseph Ham, while he grinds out Garth Brooks’ “I Got Friends (in Low Places)” as a sing-along, and looks very “Captain Fantastic” as Elton John singing “Your Song” in a gold top and outrageous glasses. Matt Milton played Bobby Darin and Tom Jones. This time, he’s…Bobby Darin and Tom Jones, but it’s good to have him back.
Thomas Hayes croons as Paul Anka, struts as a good ol’ Glenn Campbell, and stretches the limits of the human falsetto as Frankie Valli. Amber Herrera, Stephanie Barnett, and Kelsey Ikemiya are cute Dixie Cups singing “Chapel of Love, and Amber gets to bust loose with a Mariah Carey solo, while Stephanie brings back Mama Cass. I’m always impressed by Barnett, and I’d like to see her shown off with more stage time than she gets.
The up-tempo numbers usually come off the best, as the audience is too busy following things to worry about how close the look is or how good the singing. Nevertheless, it’s a fun show. I hope the franchise continues. I know what I’d like to see:
Legends Hollywood—With the Hollywood Sign as a backdrop, the cast performs songs and scenes from favorite movies. A highlight: Abbott & Costello doing “Who’s on First?”
Legends Tonight—Get a good Johnny Carson impersonator and an Ed McMahon laugh-alike, and you could revive all those great performers that stood on that stage (Throw in an “Art Fern Teatime Movie” or “The Amazing Karnak” routine for good measure).
Legends Ladies—The “Legends” shows tend to favor the male acts. Maybe one edition could focus on just the women.
Legends Ludicrous—Feature those songs that should never have been recorded, like William Shatner singing………….anything. (Nahhh, forget that one.)
There’s one thing I didn’t mention, one performer who—in a few short years—made his image synonymous with Las Vegas. Yes, Elvis has entered the building (with billows of smoke, the pumping sounds of the “2001” theme, and the Memphis Mafia to guard him), and Erik Valencia has him. I’d like to see less of the guitar and more of the karate moves, but he prowls the stage with that signature sneer, and it’s a joy to behold.
It’s a limited run, so get your tickets while you can. They close this weekend. To order tickets, call 559-638-6500 or 866-977-6500. You can get more information on their KRL event page or the RCTC website.
Check out more local entertainment articles each week right here at KRL.