March 11, 2011 - 2:05 am
This may come off like the sound of one-hand clapping, but toward the end of Greg London’s “Impressions That Rock!” this thought occurred:
I’m seeing a show that’s as good as one can possibly be without having an original idea of its own.
Let’s take the glass half-full approach and talk about the good stuff first.
London is an energetic singing impressionist who first came from Reno to the Riviera last summer with a now-standard showcase of imitations, from Tom Jones to Kermit the Frog. But the show is tighter and brighter after crossing Paradise Road to the Las Vegas Hilton’s Shimmer Cabaret.
A sound system that’s light-years beyond the Riviera’s reveals London actually does sound like Johnny Cash, Sammy Davis Jr. and Neil Diamond (and the young “Cracklin’ Rosie” Neil, not the rust-bucket “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” any impressionist can fake).
An odd team of collaborators — from legitimate theater director David Taylor to music producer Ross Vannelli (brother of singer Gino) — further tweaked and tightened what was already a well-organized showcase.
London bangs out about 30 impressions (and even manages to sing in his own voice) within 67 minutes, a breathless flow that somehow makes sense.
One segment has him auditioning for Capitol Records, frustrating an unseen producer by singing in every voice but his own. Another finds him resigned, with a life buoy around his neck, to his fate as a cruise ship entertainer.
Top it all off with a live band that interacts in the foreground, and three eye-catching female dancers who constantly change costumes, adding visual punch lines (plaid miniskirts for Rod Stewart! ZZ Top beards!) and variety to this little bandstand stage.
In a perfect world, this would be the technical standard for all Las Vegas shows. Watching it makes you realize a lot of other small-stage, medium-price titles have been skating by on much less.
But to what end? There’s the rub.
London does very little to offset the creeping feeling that he’s 15 years too late to this party.
Did the loss of Danny Gans create such a large void that Gordie Brown alone can’t fill it? Or will even those who don’t see a lot of live entertainment experience deja vu with London’s Dean Martin, Joe Cocker, and the Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias duet on “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”?
One thing’s for sure. You can never have enough wigs. The first one doesn’t show up for eight minutes. But after that it’s boom, boom, like “The Trouble with Tribbles.” David Cassidy. Tina Turner. Jim Morrison. Ozzy Osbourne. Bob Dylan. David Bowie. (Same wig as Rod Stewart? Gets to be like a shell game.)
The straight imitations, including Cash and credible copies of Ray Charles and Billy Joel, are balanced with the song parodies from Brown’s wheelhouse. The Bee Gees are deemed “dentally challenged” so London can sing, “How can you mend these broken teeth?”
The funniest thing about the show — as in, both straight-up funny and ironic — is a post-modern commentary. The elephant in the room is London’s preternatural spray tan and beyond-Gothic black hair. So it’s a crack-up when the dancers make like Lady Gagas, rewriting “Bad Romance” as “Stuck on a bad cruise ship: He’s really out there when he dyes his hair …”
London’s bassist tries to justify it all at one point when he tells us, “Forget having your own sound. You’ve got a huge gift.”
But the irony is that most of the show ends up being a kind of imitation, of other imitations. At least it’s in a fresh package.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.Review
Greg London “Impressions That Rock!”
8:30 p.m. Saturdays-Wednesdays
Shimmer Cabaret at the Las Vegas Hilton, 3000 Paradise Road