Theatre in Review

“The Legend of Georgia McBride” written by Matthew Lopez, is an adorable and entertaining piece brought to sexy, vibrant life by an exquisitely multi-talented cast of characters. 

The play is set in a dusty part of the Florida panhandle at a run-down club called Cleo's owned by Eddie played with great irony by character actor Keith Kupferer. 

After night in and night out with an unsuccessful Elvis act, Eddie has allowed his cousin "Miss Tracy Mills" (Sean Blake) to bring her two man/woman drag show to the club in the hopes of salvaging his nightclub income. 

Sean Blake is amazing and seems born to play this role. Blake gets the most laughs and the most oohs and aahs with each stunning costume change or drag number and absolutely steals the show.  Miss mills also brings with her another drag queen of the highest order but one with a serious drinking problem named Rexy. 

Rexy played by Jeff Kurysz is hysterically funny in this role and does double time as Casey’s landlord and friend, a straight married man with children. Kurysz did so well in this transformation, it took me halfway through the play to realize this was the same person playing tow completely opposite roles and that was only because I thought I saw just a hint of blue eye shadow left over during his quick change from drag queen to local roofer!

The lead role of Casey is played with real charisma and fantastic dance abilities by Nate Santana. Casey has been trying to eke out a living doing his Elvis impersonation at the club but do to waning interest in his act has been demoted to bartender to make room for the new drag show. His wife, Jo (Leslie Ann Sheppard) has informed him she is pregnant and must give up his dreams of playing Elvis in order to support the family. The couple works well together, presenting a believable dynamic and we are easily able to root for them.

In the end, Casey learns to become a successful drag queen (after reluctantly doing so originally when asked by Eddie after Rexy is passed out drunk just before her number) and fulfills his artistic talents in this way. Just watching Casey’s transformation from Elvis impersonator to slovenly, broken down bartender to show-stopping drag queen is worth the price of admission and Santana does so with great communicative eyes and terrific physical comedy skills. 

Is drag just performing? No it is not as Rexy later explains to Casey, who thinks it's as simple as performing a show - it is a protest. There is much more to drag than eye shadow, glitzy dresses and fake boobs. It is a way of life, something to take your lumps for and definitely something not for "pussies". 

The set which slides back and forth to become their shoddy apartment and the dressing room of the bar is a little confusing and doesn't quite give the intimacy to either environment that it deserves. However, the lighting (JR Lederle), sound (Kevin O’Donnell), amazing costumes (Rachel Laritz), fabulous wigs (Penny Lane Studios- WOW!) and funny props by Bronte DeShong and yummy choreography by Chris Carter more than make up for that distraction. 

I highly recommend this laugh a minute feel-good comedy with several smashing dance numbers about making your dreams come true "right where you are with what you've got to work with" for the whole family to enjoy. 

“The Legend of Georgia McBride” is being performed at Northlight Theatre through October 22nd. More show information can be found at www.northlight.org.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

powder-blueYou might not think of Starved Rock as a place to get your rock on, but last weekend the popular national park was jumpin’ to The King’s music during a three-day event that had premiere Elvis Presley impersonator Michael St. Angel belting out one classic after another. Often making the rounds from table to table during Starved Rock Lodge’s Tribute to the Stars Series dinner event, St. Angel had the blissful audience clapping along and often joining in for some of those choruses we know so well. With an abundant repertoire of Elvis classics and even some Bobby Darin, Jay and the Americans and Engelbert Humperdinck sprinkled in, guests enjoyed an action-packed two-set performance that ended in two standing ovations.

This is the third year in a row performing at the Starved Rock Lodge for Michael St. Angel where he entertained for both matinee and evening shows. St. Angel’s first set included many of Elvis’ earlier hits including “Return to Sender”, “It’s Now or Never”, “Viva Las Vegas”, Darin’s “Mack the Knife” and also a very inspired rendition of Jay and the American’s “Cara Mia”. With the look, moves and a voice that puts him among the best of Presley impersonators, St. Angel’s tribute is thoroughly fun to watch and take part in.

Part two of Michael St. Angel’s enactment of The King was more about the Vegas years. Re-entering the room clad in Elvis’ trademark white jumpsuit to the theme of 2001: A Space Odyssey, St. Angel immediately jumped into “See See Rider” and aptly followed up with many greats such as “The Wonder of You”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Suspicious Minds”. Infusing even more energy into his show as the night went on, fans feasted on St. Angel’s enthusiasm and charisma to which it seemed there was an endless supply. Of course – the crescendo - it wouldn’t be a true Elvis concert without “American Trilogy”, and St. Angel didn’t disappoint, performing the song flawlessly before ending his show with the same song Elvis often ended his concerts, “Can’t Help Falling in Love”.

Michael St. Angel, located in the Chicagoland area, plays roughly fifty to sixty shows per year. Depending on the gig or request, St. Angel can perform with or without a full band and is available for corporate events, private parties, weddings and/or summer festivals. Should one not opt for a full band, St. Angel is accompanied by a serious sound system that is sure to rock the house regardless. Fans are also encouraged to drop by and check out Michael’s act on the fourth Friday of each month at Chef Shangi-La’s in North Riverside.

You can’t help but notice the fervor St. Angel has for Elvis’ music during his performance – and that’s what you really want in a tribute entertainer. It’s clearly not just a job but a passion – the passion to pass on Elvis’ legacy in a way fit for a king – or The King.  

For upcoming performances and more information on Michael St. Angel, visit his website by clicking here. For upcoming Starved Rock Lodge entertainment click here.

 

Published in In Concert
Monday, 27 October 2014 19:00

Trent Carlini Brings The King to Life

When you think of Las Vegas many things come to mind – gambling, bright lights, monstrous hotels and casinos to which one can easily get lost, glamorous showgirls, dry heated air, the Bellagio fountain, The Rat Pack, Bugsy Segal and Seigfried and Roy. But maybe the largest association one has with Vegas is none other than the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley himself. After flopping in Las Vegas during the 1950s (they just weren’t ready for rock n’ roll), Elvis returned with a vengeance in the late 1960s and had several highly successful years as a residency and touring act until his death on August 16th, 1977.

Since the King’s passing there have probably been more Elvis impersonators than one can count, and though most may go unnoticed, Trent Carlini does not. Formerly known as the Las Vegas Hilton where Elvis performed with regularity, Carlini currently performs an amazingly inspired tribute at what is now called Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino. Known as one of the best Elvis impersonators in the business, Carlini does not disappoint.

Set in the Shimmer Cabaret, a 350-seat theatre, fans are treated to a very intimate Elvis experience that is a true celebration of Elvis’ life and music. Trent Carlini packs an accurate, and highly entertaining, musical chronology into his 75-minute show that starts with Presley’s earliest hits like “Blue Suede Shoes” and keeps on rolling through the 1970s. Touching on the movie years, we hear classics like “Rock-A-Hula”, “G.I. Blues”, and of course “Viva Las Vegas”, before Carlini appears in that famous leather suit for some ’68 Comeback Special action. Carlini also dons Elvis’ legendary white suit for an emotionally stirring rendition of “If I Can Dream”.

“The King starring Trent Carlini” gives audience members a taste of Elvis Presley’s music in a way many thought could not be done. Carlini’s vocal ability to sound like Presley is haunting, his likeness almost uncanny at times, his movements right on and he even captures some of the late legend’s renowned charm whether it be in joking with the crowd or letting off a simple impish grin. Band members play along with Carlini but are not exposed until a few songs in, adding another dimension to the show. Expect a good amount of audience participation, as Carlini prods the crowd to sing along on occasion (or on their own!), invites the ladies to step up to the stage for a kiss, personally greets a good amount of the crowd during “Love Me Tender” and later passes out scarves to the adoring women in true King fashion.  

With each period of Elvis’ life, Carlini sports the proper attire from Presley’s Lansky collection to his well-known jumpsuits (complete with karate demonstrations). We get a little history lesson along the way though the main focus is on the music, as it should be in a tribute show. Pumping out the Elvis faves like “Hound Dog”, “Jailhouse Rock” (one of Carlini’s self-proclaimed top choices), “Burning Love”, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “The Wonder of You”, fans leave the theater feeling as though they got their full dose of Elvis-mania. The show concludes on an apropos note with Carlini’s powerful version of “American Trilogy” that really gets the goose bumps going. Carlini hits the song’s final note with precision and might – a note that so many other tribute artists substitute with a lower octave.

There is a huge variety of shows to see in Las Vegas, but this is one that should be on your must see list, Elvis fan or not. It is a show for all ages and one that anyone who likes to rock can enjoy. “The King starring Trent Carlini” is completely entertaining and thoroughly engaging. Trent is one of the best in the business and what better place than to relive, or get a taste of, the musical performance of Elvis Presley.

“Thank you. Thank you very much.”   

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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