Female impersonators are nothing new in the Atlantic City landscape. Bally’s hosted An Evening at La Cage for 11 years and the town has hosted the Miss’d America Pageant, a spoof of the Miss America Pageant featuring cross-dressing gentlemen.
However, the town has never hosted a show as enticing and hilarious as Believe - Divas In A Man’s World. Steve Andrade, who put the show together and stars as Cher, has assembled some of the best female impersonators in the country, including Phyl Craig as Liza Minnelli and Gary Dee as Joan Rivers, an impersonation so dead on perfect that Rivers has hired him to work events for her.
Divas In A Man’s World starts with top tier talent and builds from there. The show also features four dancers — two male, two female — whose choreography, designed by Frank Moore (who also stars as the show’s non-diva headliner, Prince) really gives the show a concert atmosphere. This is especially true when Craig does his routine to Minnelli’s show stopping “Cabaret” and Jimmy Electra is doing his Divine Miss M routine to “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
The other element that takes this show to the next level is the costumes. Andrade makes his own knockoffs of Bob Mackie’s originals for his performance and he also designed some of the other costuming in the show.
The glue that holds the show together is Dee. He keeps the audience in stitches, not to mention dazzling the crowd with multiple gown changes. Joan accuses an audience member of looking up her skirt and says, “What you will find there is Pee Wee’s big adventure.” She also claims that there are Monica Lewinsky slots on the casino floor. “They say insert Bill here.”
The show begins with a bonus impersonation. Craig begins the evening as Nancy Sinatra, complete with nearly hip-high boots for “These Boots Are Made For Walking” with the 1960s era feel that makes the song come alive and matches the video of Nancy herself that begins before Craig arrives onstage.
Next up was a first dose of Dee’s delightful Rivers shtick, followed by Electra’s Bette Midler. When Electra gets dramatic while lip-synching to “Wind Beneath My Wings,” a piece of costuming nearly steals the show, a huge set of wings designed by Andrade that are so heavy they are hung from the ceiling and descend to just above Bette’s shoulders. It made me think about Robert Preston’s line in Victor/Victoria when he is coaching Julie Andrews. “Give it tons of shoulder, you’re a drag queen.” Those wings were the costume equivalent of “tons of shoulder.”
Speaking of going over the top, Eddie Summers’ body English is hilarious as he gives us his interpretation of Patti LaBelle doing “Lady Marmalade,” “New Attitude” and especially “Over the Rainbow.”
Andrade arrives with those impressive costumes including Indian headgear and the famous tattoo-revealing outfit to faux belt such classics as “If I Could Turn Back Time,” “Half Breed” and “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.”
Believe me, this show delivers the drama and pageantry that becomes a diva most.
The Man Behind Cher
Steve Andrade, pictured at left, and who has toured the country with his hour long Cher tribute, has wanted to put together a great cast and deliver a topnotch female impersonator show (he prefers that term rather than drag show) for a decade. He is delighted that Resorts’ is giving him that opportunity.
ACW: How did this show come about?
Steve Andrade: We’ve all been in La Cage shows. It was a different experience; they put you on stage for two minutes and then the next act arrives and that would be it. I wanted to do my own show for about ten years, so I came up with the name. People that are doing what I do try their whole life to get [a show] like this. I happened to be a judge at the Miss’d America Pageant and Dave Pena asked me to perform at Boogie Nights at Resorts and Dennis Gomes was there and I told him about the show and he put with in touch with Resorts Vice President of Entertainment Stephanie Nielson. It was just the type of show they were looking for.
What makes for a great drag show?
We don’t think of it as a drag show. We think of ourselves as character actors and we go on stage we are doing a little mini-Broadway acting thing. Drag shows are men creating a character that is like them. What we do, as female impersonators, it’s the look-alike aspect, the costuming, the make-up, the hair. All of us are at the top of our field.
Resorts is making a move a to bring back the vibrant gay entertainment scene that Atlantic City had for many years. How do you feel about being a part of that?
It is one of the most amazing personal triumphs for myself, to [be part] of gay people coming into a casino and feeling welcome, and knowing they can be themselves. That was very important to me because throughout my life I have struggled with that. — LH
‘Believe - Divas In A Man’s World’
Where: Resorts Atlantic City, 13th Floor Screening Room
When: Now-July 25: Thurs. 9pm; Fri.-Sat. 10pm; Sun. 8pm
How Much: $20 (18 or older only)