How do James Lowry and the other "Legends in Concert" stars get into character?
As yet another packed house filed out of Legends in Concert recently at Resorts, dozens of fans took the time to tell showroom staff how much they enjoyed the show. "It's terrific!" was repeated numerous times.
The Legends in Concert formula of presenting look-alike and sound-alike performers paying tribute to superstars both living and dead, has managed to survive the evolving nature of the musical entertainment business since 1983.
Atlantic City has been home to various productions of the show for much of that time period, including a successful long-running show at Bally's that ended Oct. 31, 2005. At the time, it was assumed that in the new Atlantic City -- catering to a younger audience at such venues as the Borgata and House of Blues -- a show like Legends was passé.
Not exactly. It took just eight months before the show's "Old Atlantic City" charm was brought back to Resorts last August. In February of this year, Resorts brought in a new cast for a seven-week run that ends March 15. The show reopens at the Hilton on March 18 and runs until the end of the month. And, if your Legends fix has yet to be satisfied, a production is scheduled for Resorts in June.
|James Lowry as 'Elvis'|
While catering to a younger crowd is important for Atlantic City's overall growth in the face of increased competition, there is still a strong base of baby boomer and older visitors. This portion of the casino crowd is standing up and cheering, night after night, for Legends in Concert.
What makes for happy fans is the activity backstage. It takes a lot of work and technical support to put on a show with five tribute artists, costume changes, video clips, a live band and dancers. Amid the chaos backstage, how do the tribute artists get into character to make it on stage brimming with confidence and totally in the moment?
In between a matinee performance and the evening show, I was recently given the opportunity to slip backstage and ask Jazmine (Whitney Houston), Nate Evans (Temptations) and James Lowry (Elvis) how they find their inner superstar.
Jazmine's thrilling rendition of "I Will Always Love You" as Houston brings the crowds to their feet every performance. The lovely, petite young lady who greets me backstage, however, could have slipped into the crowd that was cheering her minutes earlier and never be recognized.
Jazmine explains that, to get into character, "It requires a little bit of solitude. I have to go into a zone a couple of songs before I go on stage to get my mind prepared."
So how did Jazmine get the opportunity to be in Legends? She first auditioned for the reality show Your Big Break while living in Florida. It took place at a bar.
|The cast of 'Legends' in the show's finale|
"I had a few drinks and brought this ratty wig with me," she says. "I did the audition a little inebriated, and didn't think anything of it. Then they called me and asked me to come to Hollywood to be on the show." She was a finalist and -- through other contestants -- learned about Legends and sent in an audition tape. "It took about two years after [Your Big Break] that the people from Legends called me."
Nate Evans might be currently in the "tribute artist" category, but he is the real deal, a member of the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame. When asked if he has a backstage ritual to get into character as a Temptation, he chuckles.
"We're always in character," he says. "Whenever you say 'sing,' we go with it. It's not about getting into character. I was actually with the original leads of the Temptations with David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks and Dennis Edwards, and before that I was with the Impressions [1976-79]. I'm in the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame with the Impressions."
Evans landed in the show after the deaths of Ruffin and Kendricks. He then found new singers and taught them all the steps.
"This is all I've ever done since I was 14. Singing is just like getting a drink of water."
When Legends co-star James Lowry stops by, he immediately gives Evans a plug.
"I saw him with the Temptations in 1991," he says. "He was at the Hilton, at the room that Elvis played in."
Plus MBCA scholarships and upcoming events, Drew Toonz, and the Album of the Week.
Caesars Entertainment cautions fans that "since there isn’t a cover-charge, fans looking to view the concert from the comfort of Backstage’s plush couches are urged to come early, as reservations will not be accepted."
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