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Shows transport stars to another era

Elvis doing a funked-up, hip-hop “All Shook Up”?

Frank Sinatra covering “Achy Breaky Heart”? Sammy Davis Jr. rapping?

The latest twist in the ever-expanding universe of tribute shows is to take the tributes beyond the original performer’s era.

Pete Willcox, an Elvis impersonator since 1978, says he won’t even try to squeeze into a jumpsuit for “The King Lives,” launching April 2 at Hooters Hotel. Moreover, you can search YouTube with his name or “Hip Hop Elvis” to see how he answers his own question, “How could Elvis resist hip-hop?”

The answer, a medley of “Don’t Be Cruel” and “All Shook Up” that’s really more ’70s funk, will be part of the new venture. Willcox says Gary Gregg, chief operating officer of Hooters, was intrigued by the idea of what Elvis would be doing if he were alive today.

“The blessing is probably the other Elvis show in town,” Willcox says of Cirque du Soleil’s new “Viva Elvis.” “It has everything but Elvis in it.”

In Las Vegas, Willcox had traded his jumpsuit for a tuxedo, playing Dean Martin in Rat Pack tributes from 2002 through 2005. Based on how they are multiplying, that’s still a viable backup plan.

This weekend, the Rampart Casino hosts “Drinkin’-Singin’-Swingin’,” produced by Rick Michel, who also stars as Dean Martin. Michael used to perform in “The Rat Pack is Back” before striking out on his own in 2002.

“I went to school on everybody else’s mistakes and learned,” he says of the Las Vegas work he has done since 1981.

A settlement with “The Rat Pack is Back” producer Dick Feeney prevents him from using the phrase “Rat Pack” or even “tribute” in his advertising, but he says that made him more creative. The show isn’t supposed to be a time capsule freezing Sinatra and friends in the early 1960s.

“We modernize it. How would they reinvent cool today?” he says. “I’m not reinventing the wheel, but we are doing different songs.”

So far, there is no commitment beyond the Rampart shows with Ryan Baker and Bryan Clark Friday through Sunday. But Michel says he wouldn’t mind joining the fray with a sit-down production.

Meanwhile, Sandy Hackett expands his “Rat Pack Show” with a San Francisco run at Marines’ Memorial Theatre April 15-May 23. He says two casts will go back and forth to “mix and match” between San Francisco and the Sahara during that run. …

Today inaugurates the Iowa Theater for the Performing Arts, formerly an upstairs banquet room at Hooters Hotel. Two comedy shows have moved upstairs into the cozy 200-seater to make room for Willcox’s incoming Elvis show.

Solo comedian Todd Paul moves upstairs for an 8 p.m. showcase now subtitled “Fear & Laughing in Las Vegas.” Paul does double-duty at 10 p.m., joining Geechy Guy and Mickey Joseph for “The Dirty Joke Show.” …

The randy senior known as Grandma Lee will have a specially billed headliner run in Bonkerz comedy club at Palace Station, May 3-29. The “America’s Got Talent” finalist was “responsible for our best week since we’ve opened” when she played the club in January, says operator Joe Sanfelippo.

Bringing her back for a longer stretch will make it cost-effective to do special advertising, Sanfelippo says. Bonkerz expanded to a six-night weekly schedule last month. It now shares the showroom with a 7 p.m. oldies revue, “Rock n’ Roll 2 Soul,” featuring Cornell Gunter’s Coasters. …

The little showroom at the Greek Isles gets religion with a new gospel brunch on Sunday, one that aspires to become a weekly happening, says sales director Gregg Weiler.

The brunch is helmed by veteran local performers Tim Searcy and Tony Arias, of the duo Tony & Lloyd. The showroom that has been largely out of commission since “Ignite” closed last fall should be back in action with evening shows in May, Weiler says. …

Finally, a random thought inspired by two e-mails arriving back to back last week: Mac King will be signing his new book, “Campfire Magic,” at the Barnes & Noble at 2191 N. Rainbow Blvd. from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday. King is not just the author of youth-oriented books; he’s a literacy advocate who often visits elementary schools to read stories. It goes unsaid that these visits cross-promote his family-friendly show at Harrah’s Las Vegas.

But when Angelica Bridges took part in Nevada Reading Week at Christensen Elementary School, how did they introduce her? Was any mention made of her headlining the topless “Fantasy” revue? Or did they stick to the “Baywatch” past in her resume?

For what it’s worth, photos from the event showed Bridges clad head-to-toe in a classy black pantsuit. I’m assuming they did not pass out two-for-one coupons to the show.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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