Onyx Theatre to host former Finocchio Club performers

They moved with a graceful, feminine appeal.

Their voices belted out high-pitched notes. With their pretty dresses and faces full of makeup, they resembled women.

That’s who they were when the mic was hot and the spotlight hit the stage.

Ladylike.

Female impersonators David de Alba and Paul Cummings spent decades gender bending at Finocchio’s, a legendary San Francisco cabaret nightclub that closed its doors in 1999 after 63 years.

It was a time when wigs were expensive, musical arrangements were purchased and live bands played music for performers to sing along — a far cry from the lip-syncing that takes place in some of the modern-day performances.

Sunday, the duo will let the audience peek behind the curtain during a free 5 p.m. show at the Onyx Theatre, 953 E. Sahara Ave., No. 16.

The retrospective show plans to include interviews of and performances by de Alba and Cummings, who are some of the club’s only singer-impressionists still alive. The show also is set to include recordings of past performances and a question-and-answer session with the audience.

But for this performance, the guys are leaving their boas and fake lashes at home.

This is a tribute to their careers — from then to now — and what led them to this point in their lives. They’re expecting tough questions from the audience about how they made a living pretending to be someone else.

De Alba, a self-professed “m ama’s boy,” will discuss the death of his mother a few years ago.

It pains him on stage to see her front-row seat now empty while he performs.

At one point in the show, Cummings plans to perform a live duet with a recording of his voice when he was on stage at Finocchio’s as Lavern. He has since retired from female impressions.

“I got tired of shaving all the time and the makeup routine,” Cummings said, chuckling. “My conception of female impersonation was to sound like and move like them, so I studied women. I’ve had an interesting career in the past, and that’s probably what we’ll talk about.”

He fine-tuned the art of impersonating women to make a living for 40 years.

“This is the first time we’ve worked together since the old days,” Cummings reflected.

The show is free, which de Alba is quick to point out isn’t a reflection of the show’s quality.

“With the economy the way that it is, we wanted to help people,” he said. “I did it with a good thing in mind.”

Donations will be accepted for those who want to reserve a seat in the first few rows.

De Alba also is scheduled for a show at 5 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Onyx called “Finocchio Club Backstage Memoirs,” which will revisit entertaining anecdotes and pay tribute to some of the club’s late performers. The cost is $10.

His song selection will be “interspersed with stories dealing with the gossip, intrigue and comical situations that took place backstage.”

In that show, de Alba will close with a cabaret impression of Liza Minnelli’s “New York, New York.”

And for one moment, the ladies will be reunited.

Contact Downtown and North Las Vegas View reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@viewnews.com or 383-0492.

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