Location: Resorts Atlantic City, 13th Floor
This past Saturday night I celebrated my 55th birthday with another’s success. I joined Steven Andrade, the co-producer and creative director of Believe – Divas in a Man’s World backstage at Resorts prior to a performance of their holiday show.
Steven has been working as a female impersonator for 14 years. He has performed many diverse venues ranging from corporate retreats to night clubs, casino showrooms and television. Through the years he has raised over $300,000 for various charities, and continues working toward more.
I first met Steven when Believe opened Resort’s 13th floor theater across from the gay nightclub Prohibition in April.
Funny thing to keep in mind, while 99 percent of the female impersonators in the long-running show are gay, 99 percent of the audience is straight – many seeing their first female impersonator show.
All leave smiling, and some make their way across the hall to stop into their first gay bar for a drink before continuing their night downstairs at the tables. Turns out, Believe is a bridge of understanding and acceptance too — between worlds that might otherwise not meet.
Saturday, I spoke with Steven before the show in the dressing room he shares with Gary Dee, the Joan Rivers impersonator who also hosts the show.
Gary brings a great routine and a spontaneous and quick-witted barrage of jokes that engages the audience making it interactive the moment he opens. Gary announced my birthday, let out a few lines that left the audience in stitches — asking me not to print them. (Quite honestly, I’m not sure I could!)
Gary is so good, Joan Rivers has hired him several times.
In the dressing room, Steven was applying his make-up, and explaining his costumes. They are designed and painstakingly made by him to resemble Bob Mackie’s costumes, which are every bit a part of Cher.
Believe is different from other revue shows. It’s not a series of one-song stints by performer after performer. It’s a total evening of longer performances by actors who become the people they portray.
It’s also the first time the top impersonators from across the nation have been assembled into one continuously running casino show.
It is the goal of each actor to capture the look, feel, and essence of his diva. Steven isn’t there to be Steven playing Cher. He’s there to be Cher. To leave you convinced you have just seen her perform, and leave you full with that memory, and he does.
When the curtain opens, Cher descends on a stage lift, and has you singing and moving your body with her. Visually, you are on a journey inside your mind, seeing Cher before you, exactly like every time you’ve seen her before.
A highlight in Steven’s life, he tells me, was meeting Cher, who was full of accolades for his performances. They say the best form of flattery is imitation. It’s hard to tell where reality stops and imitation starts.
Vicky, a 70-year-old usher at the theater told me after the show: “It’s like I’m alive again. I’ve lost 50 pounds, feel younger and better than I did 20 years ago, and it’s all because of the positive energy coming from that stage and these guys every night. I’ve never had a job like this. I love it.”
A woman visiting from Westchester, N.Y., told me: “They’re better than the real thing. I’ve seen all these stars perform.”
And she meant it. She sat there totally entertained, clapping her hands to the music, smiling ear to ear, totally captured by the performances. This was my third time seeing the show, each time with different friends seeing it for the first time, and each time more entertained than the time before.
I look forward to seeing it again with new friends. (It is slated to run at Resorts through Jan. 1, 2012)
Other Diva’s include:
Jason Cozmo as Dolly Parton, capturing her in Christmas red and true to life. My female friend queried, “Darn, where’d she get those parts?”
Eddie Summers portrays Patti LaBelle. As you watch, you can feel her reaching down deep for the high notes and you reach with her.
Phyl Craig, as Liza Minnelli, is second to none. I have seen him impersonate Nancy Sinatra too. He brings both to life, as his boots made for walking dance across the stage.
Finally, Frank Moore as Prince, captures a male diva to the tee. He is the choreographer of the show, and a fluid acrobatic dance accompanies his performance.
Through the years, I have met Liza Minnelli and Patti LaBelle personally. After meeting the Divas, I feel like I’ve met the rest.
While backstage before the show, Sheky, the costume master, came into the dressing room to announce “Lisa is here.”
Lisa is undoubtedly Steven and the show’s biggest fan. This young lady arrived via wheelchair with her mother Denise from out of town. She makes the pilgrimage at least once a month to be swept away for the moment from her daily routine. I recommend to any and all of you to make the pilgrimage.
Steven made Lisa’s night more complete, when, after the show, Cher posed for pictures with her
and the rest of our guests. Lisa's words to Cher: “You’ve made my day. Thanks.”
You made mine too. I’ll always remember this special birthday. BRAVO!!
Geoff Rosenberger is a Broker Associate at Marketplace Realty. Read more of the acweekly.com columnist, Margate City resident and self-proclaimed visionary's "Geoff's Page," including local snap shots, thoughts, Atlantic City news, random musings, GLBT-related news, "The Real Report," and happenings every week — only at acweekly.com.
E-mail Geoff at email@example.com or call him at 609-385-7585.