Return of 'Legends in Concert' provides great evening of good time rock 'n' roll
Legends in Concert, a staple of the entertainment scene in Atlantic City for about 13 years, made a quiet exit last year from Bally's Palace Theater. It was easy to assume that the entertainment scene in town had passed it by with the infusion of headliners in the city spearheaded by the House of Blues and Borgata. The show with the rotating cast of tribute artists was no longer needed to keep the bus people happy in the off-season.
It was rather a surprise then when Resorts announced that it was bringing Legends in Concert back for a summer encore at the Superstar Theater. Legends, however, was always a show that was unpretentious and entertaining, especially when the tribute artists on tap were at the top end of the look-alike/sound-alike scale.
Well, Resorts has corralled a Legends cast that is absolutely above average. In my many years of covering entertainment in town -- meaning seeing Legends at least a half dozen times -- it ranks as one of the best, if not the best Legends show this reporter has ever seen. Admittedly, if you're someone who cringes at the notion of imitation stars, my enthusiasm for this fun-filled night of old fashioned, set-your-hair-on-fire rock 'n' roll will fall on deaf ears. However, perhaps a few of the 10 million fans that have seen a Legends in Concert show before (that's a stat from the show's Web site), will check it out.
You can't get more old school than "The Killer," Jerry Lee Lewis. As embodied by 20-year-old Lance Lipinsky, who looks a lot like Dennis Quaid from the Jerry Lee biopic Great Balls of Fire, it is almost like going back in a time capsule. Lipinsky attacks the piano with boundless energy, jumping up on it and kicking away his chair to pound the keys while standing up with boogie-woogie bravado. And he can sing, setting the stage for the night with "Wild Child," "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" and "Great Balls of Fire." His coolest maneuver was playing the piano backwards while lying on the top of the instrument.
Kristi Coombs as Madonna (who I saw the first week of the show) is more of a look-alike than a sound-alike. She captures the attitude of the Material Girl during numbers like "Vogue" and "Holiday," and goes for the high tone Madonna while dressed in red to sing "Don't Cry For Me Argentina." The show also features six excellent dancers who were put through their paces for the Madonna segment. In addition, Legends has a fine backing band; this is a show that prides itself on providing live music and vocals, no dubbing. The role of Madonna is now being played by Kimberly Goltry.
Dan Meisner and Joe Messina were regulars during the Bally's years as the Blues Brothers. Besides providing the BB singing and dance moves during songs like "Flip, Flop and Fly," "Expressway to Your Heart" and "Soul Man," they have fun improvising with the audience. On a recent night, they noticed that a young man was asleep near center stage, and made him pay by waking him up and making him part of the show.
Aretha Franklin could only wish she was ever as slender as Denita Asberry, who presents music from the Queen of Soul's early years. While Asberry's voice is too pretty to truly capture the essence of Aretha, she is a talented singer and it was a great collection of songs -- "Respect," "Chain of Fools," "Never Loved A Man" and a medley of "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" and "Natural Woman." She keeps the room humming with "Think" for her finale.
A Legends show always ends with the King, and the flexible hips of Dean Z were given a workout as he presented the '50s-era Elvis. His vocals were remarkable as he sneered and swiveled his way through "Blue Suede Shoes," "Heartbreak Hotel," "Don't Be Cruel" and "Jailhouse Rock."
As is the custom in Legends in Concert, the entire cast returns for an encore, this time to a medley of songs with "rock" in the title including "Rock 'n' Roll Hoochie Coo," "Keep On Rocking Me Baby" and "It's Only Rock and Roll."
Legends in Concert is back in town, and fans of early rock 'n' roll should catch it before it slips away again.
Legends in Concert, now to Sept. 15 on select dates at 7pm, Superstar Theater, Resorts. Tickets are $25, available from Ticketmaster, 1-800-736-1420, or from the Resorts box office in the Boardwalk Lobby.
The new holiday edition of Legends at Bally’s features a strong group of tribute artists.
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