‘Tribute Royalty’ keeping ‘Legends’ on toes

On May 16, 1983, Michael Jackson secured his own legend by dancing to “Billie Jean” on NBC’s “Motown 25” special. It aired two weeks after “Legends in Concert” opened in Las Vegas.

Damian Brantley re-creates that moonwalk in “Legends,” which is as good a way as any to put the show’s amazing 30-year run into perspective.

The Strip’s second-longest running show (behind “Jubilee!”) has seen the mixed blessings of celebrity tributes becoming a larger part of show business. Big-picture competition includes long-form tributes — to everyone from the Bee Gees to Led Zeppelin — booked alongside “real” performers in tribal and suburban casinos.

And Brantley dances with such a liquid fury that he shows how irresistible a celebrity tribute can be when firing on all cylinders. It’s safe to say Cirque du Soleil’s new “Michael Jackson One” won’t be so literal as to have an impersonator. Yet Brantley is an argument that any other attempt to capture the Gloved One’s appeal is just circling around the target.

But “Legends” fell to the second tier of Las Vegas shows over the years, unable — or unwilling — to goose up the production budget enough to keep up with big players such as Cirque.

What you see onstage doesn’t look a whole lot different from what it did in the 1980s. A stair-stepped riser wraps around the live band, and any production garnishes for, say, the Britney Spears “Circus” number, are hauled on by the performers themselves.

If they can’t outspend the competition, the producers were smart to fade back to an afternoon time slot for most performances in the show’s new home at the Flamingo (they also have evening shows on Sundays, Mondays and when Flamingo headliners are on vacation).

But I also have to wonder if direct competitors, who periodically turn up to challenge “Legends” on the Strip, indirectly contribute to the show’s longevity by giving it a good kick in the pants.

For years it was “American Superstars” that kept “Legends” honest. The new challenger is “Tribute Royalty,” produced by Matt Lewis, who for years wore the jumpsuit as a “Legends” Elvis.

On the surface, “Tribute” is so close in content that you wonder why they even bother. And yet, there’s an energy, visual style and overall sense of good taste the entrenched show should envy.

You can sense a little bit of pull within “Legends” between the way things have always been done and what needs to happen next. It’s symbolic that an old-school tribute to Tom Jones will be rotated out Monday, replaced by a Lady Gaga, even if it’s really just the show’s usual means of scheduling seven locations.

The current lineup is a typical mixed bag. John Anthony looks more like Rod Stewart than he sounds, and Victor Trevino sounds a whole lot more like young Elvis than he looks. (How did this guy, who is better than his counterpart in “Million Dollar Quartet,” miss out on that Broadway show that seeks great voices more than look-alikes?)

Katie Murdock as Spears is the best mix of look- and sound-alike. The temptation to out-sing the real Britters must be incredible, but she tamps it down to that oddly endearing coo.

No cooing with Steve McCoy’s Tom Jones. He can’t always get up there with “The Voice” — Jones didn’t get that nickname for nothin’ — but he so perfectly captures the lascivious eye-rolling of the ’80s-era Tomcat that he makes us miss the real thing terribly. And he was a much closer demographic match to this day’s audience than Lady Gaga anyway.

Over at the V Theater, “Tribute Royalty” points out that the real Achilles heel of “Legends” is not any one impersonator, but the clunky choreography of the eight dancers and generic framing of the numbers.

Although “Legends” makes you wonder why ballroom dancers show up during Stewart’s “Some Guys Have All the Luck,” the eight dancers in “Tribute” turn Edward Moss’ version of Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” into a three-act drama: A chair dance by the four women gives way to the men, then all eight are combined before the song ends with just Moss and one woman together.

It’s one advantage choreographer Janell Lewis (who is married to Matt Lewis) makes of a permanent cast instead of the rotating, modular format of “Legends,” and of having just three acts perform 25-minute segments, rather than five doing 15.

The Lewises fill the small stage with the athletic cast and the wrap-around video walls with imaginative images, such as a wall-to-wall blow-up of Erika Moul’s Gaga during “Alejandro.”

What they don’t have is the fine “Legends” band, which you most notice during the early, rockabilly part of Travis Allen’s three-act Elvis tribute. At least the recorded tracks are good recordings.

Allen finds his lower Elvis range during the requisite “ ’68 Comeback Special” and Vegas jumpsuit segments, and Moss is an upbeat Jackson. But if Brantley is the MVP of “Legends,” here it’s Moul’s fully committed Gaga.

Throwing herself on the ground, or standing on a piano bench to lean down to the keys, she’s living and breathing this. Tribute shows may be, by definition, a second-rate form of entertainment. But when someone takes an impression this seriously, you have no choice but to do so as well.

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

Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl!
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl! The 45-year-old actor posted an adorable photo on Instagram, celebrating his newborn baby girl, Tiana Gia Johnson. Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram This is Johnson’s second daughter with his girlfriend, Lauren Hashian. His oldest daughter, Simone Garcia Johnson, came from his previous marriage. Johnson and Hashian first announced they were expecting another child back in January. Congratulations!!
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend Car Show celebrates 21st year
The Stray Cats, Jerry Lee Lewis, Duane Eddy, Elvira and Mitch Polzak make appearances the 21st Annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend car show at the Orleans hotel and casino on Saturday, April 21, 2018.
This "Alice in Wonderland" cocktail changes colors and flavors while you sip
Take a tour of The Underground at The Mob Museum
Prince death investigation coming to an end
Prosecutors in Minnesota plan an announcement Thursday on the two-year investigation into Prince's death from a drug overdose Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl. Search warrants unsealed about a year after Prince died showed that authorities searched his home, cellphone records of associates and his email accounts to try to determine how he got the drug. The county attorney has scheduled a morning announcement at which time charges could be filed.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Big Bounce America visits North Las Vegas
Billing itself as "the biggest bounce house in the world," Big Bounce America visits Craig Ranch Regional Park in Las Vegas.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
Disneyland debuts new foods for Pixar Fest on Friday
Pixar Fest takes place ahead of California Adventure’s Pixar Pier expansion. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sneak Peek at New Decorations, Merch and Parade for Disneyland's Pixar Fest
Las Vegas Philharmonic celebrates 20th anniversary season
Orchestra’s 2018-19 season features premiere, more (Carol Cling/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Las Vegas' newest bar is a reggae lounge
Jammyland serves island-inspired cocktails. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
This boozy milkshake is big enough to share with seven of your best friends
Fiddlestix makes an "8 Man Milkshake" that's packed with alcohol. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five Chris Stapleton songs you need to hear
D. Michael Evola opened E-String to make New York style pizza
Shamrock Macarons at Morels at Palazzo
Zuma serves a sushi roll topped with 24-karat gold
La Cirque covers their quail and foie gras in real gold
Jean-Georges Steakhouse seves chocolate gold bars
3 ways you can eat gold in Las Vegas
Artist Kathleen Nathan On The Virtues Of Library Galleries
The Las Vegas-Clark County Library District’s art galleries offers artists a more relaxed vibe for showing their work. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada SPCA Competes In Tournament Of Tails
The NSPCA and its mascot cat, Prince, are competing in an online voting challenge for a $5,000 grand prize.
Red carpet at MGM for Dan Reynolds Believer screening
Kats on the red carpet for the VIP screening of "Believer," the documentary by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds about how the Mormon Church treats its LGBTQ members.
Eureka's cocktail comes with a "buzz button" that will shock your taste buds
‘The Sopranos’ Prequel Film Confirmed
‘The Sopranos’ Prequel Film Confirmed Deadline reports that New Line has purchased Chase and Lawrence Konner’s screenplay for their “Sopranos” prequel film. The working title for the prequel is “The Many Saints of Newark.” Chase created the HBO series, which ran for six seasons, and Konner served as a writer. “The Many Saints of Newark” is set during the 1960s riots in the New Jersey city between the African-American and Italian communities. Multiple characters from the series, albeit younger versions, are expected to star in the film. The Sopranos won 21 Primetime Emmy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards during its run.
The Big Bounce America is coming to the Las Vegas Valley
The Big Bounce America. (Courtesy Big Bounce America)
The 90th Oscars Were the Least Watched in History
The 90th Oscars Were the Least Watched in History According to The Hollywood Reporter, 26.5 million watched the Oscars, a 20 percent drop from last year. The 26.5 million viewers would be an all-time low for the Oscars. Overnight returns had the lengthy ABC telecast averaging a 18.9 rating among households between 8 and 11 p.m. ET. Last year, 32.9 million viewers tuned in to watch the ceremony. The previous low for viewership was 32 million viewers in 2008 when Jon Stewart was host. The Shape of Water picked up an award for Best Picture, while Gary Oldman and Frances McDormand won Best Actor and Actress, respectively.
March First Friday theme is “Think”
First Friday art, culture, music and food event takes place on the first Friday of every month in and around the studios and galleries of the Arts District in downtown Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon)
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like