July 2 - July 20, 2013
in Bellport

Dan's Papers - July 17, 2013

Legends in Concert at the Gateway

          “Viva Las Vegas!” That’s the tune you’ll be singing after you’ve seen Legends in Concert, playing right now at the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport. Straight off the Las Vegas strip, you will see icons Neil Diamond, Liza Minnelli, Stevie Wonder, Barbara Streisand, Tina Turner and the king of rock himself, Elvis—all on one stage, just a short drive from home!
          Neil Diamond, played by Barry Cunningham, opened the show, and his stirring renditions of “Sweet Caroline” and “America” were unbelievable! As you’re watching the live performance, there are screens flanking the stage flashing scenes of the real Diamond. You can’t help but to compare. The consensus: Cunningham played the crooner to perfection.
          Next up, racy cabaret from Liza Minnelli, impersonated by Suzanne Goulet. Goulet was able to capture Minnelli’s eccentricities to almost comical precision, and as she was singing, “I Love a Piano” from a director’s chair, you really could not distinguish the “fake” Liza from the real Liza! Her rendition of “New York, New York” was a wonderfully fun number, and I was doing the kickline in my seat along with her dancing troupe!
          The Eighth Wonder of the World himself, Stevie Wonder came up next, and the resemblance was pretty good, but the vocals and energy were even better. You’ll find yourself singing and clapping along to some of your favorite numbers like “Superstition” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” as Stevie, played by Terry Forsythe, rocks out on his electric keyboard, glasses on, long hair flipping back and forth to his beat.
          One of my favorite singers of all time was up next—the great Barbra Streisand, who has amazing and unique vocals, so I was curious how Sharon Owens could possibly embody Streisand. I was blown away. Not only did Owens’ singing voice sound like Streisand, when she was interacting with the band, or the audience, she sounded like her, walked like her and even had her decidedly snarky accent. Owens had me wide-eyed, jaw open—it’s the closest to the real Barbra I’ll probably ever get, and it was a treat! As the strands of “The Way We Were” started playing and Owens began to sing, I could feel the emotion coming through and it gave me goose bumps. When Neil Diamond came out to sing “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” I did cry just a little bit.
          Tina Turner just about blasted onto the stage with “Disco Inferno,” and Cookie Watson definitely brought the energy and love for life that Turner embodied in her performances. She held nothing back, singing as vivaciously as the real thing, in her tight black leather dress, lips bright red and hair messy as ever.
          Last to take the stage, the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, impersonated by Billy Cherry who has devoted most of his life to emulating his idol. It was kind of surreal to see Elvis on stage, because he really looked like a young, handsome, virile Presley. The white sequined jumpsuit, the hair, the eyes, the pelvic thrusts—oh, baby! I was fascinated by the way he spoke to the audience between each song, sounding just like the real thing. All soft-spoken southern gentlemen, making many of the ladies, especially me, nearly swoon with the sensual energy that emanated from him. The uncanny resemblance from head-to-toe was breathtaking.
          A rousing rock star finale will get you out of your seat to dance along, and when all six superstar impersonators come out together to sing, prepare to be awestruck once again—what a sight to behold!

Read the original article at: http://danspapers.com/2013/07/legends-in-concert-at-the-gateway-playhouse/

Long Island Advance - July 11, 2013

Legends in Concert at the Gateway

          What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay there. Now there’s no need to travel to a casino resort to see “Legends in Concert,” since the show, which has been running for the last 30 years, is playing at Bellport’s Gateway Playhouse this month.
          This revue-style show features tributes to Neil Diamond, Liza Minelli, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, Tina Turner and Elvis. The performance is backed by a live band and dancers and includes video footage of the stars. Award-winning impersonators portray these celebrities, synchronizing portions of their songs and actions with the video performances of the legends themselves.
          Neil Diamond is well-portrayed by musician/singer Barry Cunningham, which is no surprise, since his tributes to Diamond and Jimmy Buffet were the first to be booked indefinitely in a major Las Vegas casino. Cunningham has also portrayed Neil young. On stage at the Gateway he sings Diamond’s hits “Sweet Caroline,” “America,” and others.
          Montreal native Suzanne Goulet has the mannerisms of Liza Minnelli down to a “T.” Appearing in “Cabaret” costume, she chats with the audience between songs. Her own show, “Liza and Judy Together Again,” was presented at the Suncoast Casino in Las Vegas. Goulet finishes off with a sparkling rendition of “New York, New York.”
          Not only is Terrence Forsythe a show-in for Stevie Wonder, he has performed with that legend, as well as alongside The Temptations, Dionne Warwick, B.B. King, Boyz II Men, Bonnie Raitt and Smokey Robinson. He manages to capture the style and sound of Wonder with a voice that makes him seem like the legend’s twin. Forsythe includes songs like “Superstition,” “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and “sunshine” in his tribute performance, leaving the audience on a high note just before intermission.
          Sharon Owens looks so much like Barbra Streisand, and her vocal tribute to the star with songs like “The Way We Were,” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” has made her act a headliner in Las Vegas. She recently was crowned the winner of “Performing As,” a reality television show at the FOX network. Owens finishes her set singing “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” with Neil Diamond (Barry Cunningham).
          “Powerhouse” is one phrase that describes Cookie Watkins’ portrayal of Tina Turner. The story behind her development into a singer/entertainer begins in childhood. When her older brother performed with Duke Ellington’s band, Ellington heard Watkins singing in a dressing room. He supported her desire to pursue a career in musical perofmrance. Watkins is a classically trained opera singer. She looks and sounds like Turner in her prime, performing hits like “What’s Love Got to Do With It” and “Let’s Stay Together.”
          You’ll be crying like a bobby sock-wearing teenybopper when you hear Elvis (portrayed by Bill Cherry) sing “Burning Love” and “Love Me Tender.” Cherry has been featured on the “Elvis Lives Tour” and he really seems like The King. Just like the real Elvis, growing up, Cherry was influenced by southern-style gospel music because his father was a Pentecostal minister. Cherry has won numerous awards for his accurate and energy-packed tribute to The King of Rock and Roll.
          Use the cash you’d spend at the slots on dinner at a local restaurant instead; then go see the Long Island debut of “Legends in Concert” at Bellport’s Gateway Playhouse, running through July 20.

Read the original article (subscription required) at: http://www.longislandadvance.net/index.php

Newsday - July 9, 2013

'Legends in Concert': Elvis is back

          While Albany overlooked Long Island as a state-run casino site, Gateway Playhouse -- for the second straight summer -- brings Vegas-style entertainment to the South Shore.
          "Legends in Concert" has played the legendary Flamingo for 30 years. More recently, it spread to Atlantic City; Waikiki, Hawaii; Branson, Mo., and Myrtle Beach, S.C. Now it's gone regional.
          "Legends" got its start as Elvis impersonation grew into an industry in the early '80s, following the King's death in 1977. "Elvis" still anchors the show. But the lineup of look-alike/sound-alikes, now directed by Toni Lee, has ranged from Michael Jackson to Adele. At Gateway, excepting Bill Cherry as Presley, the lineup is made up of living-artist impersonators: Barrie Cunningham as Neil Diamond, Suzanne Goulet as Liza Minnelli, Terry Forsythe as Stevie Wonder, Sharon Owens as Barbra Streisand and Cookie Watkins as Tina Turner. They're accompanied by a versatile four-piece band and a dance-and-backup-vocal chorus of six.
          As the opener, Cunningham has the steepest hill to climb. Diamond is so without affect, he might be called bland, though straightforward stage presence feels refreshing today. His "Sweet Caroline" had the audience -- nary a Red Sox fan in sight -- swaying rhythmically. He returned, post-intermission, for a wistful duet ("You Don't Bring Me Flowers") with Babs, presented by Owens in respectful parody. Though the hair was right for recent- vintage Streisand -- we're reminded of Barbra's myriad 'dos in videos displayed throughout -- Owens is a more classic beauty. Few Streisand fans, we suspect, will be disappointed with her "Way We Were."
          For spot-on impersonation, Goulet's Minnelli takes the prize. Her "Cabaret" twofer ("Wilkomen" and the title song) summons the prime Liza that keeps her in demand. (The real Liza played Westhampton Beach last weekend.) Most singers aimed for the midcareer celebrity they mimicked. Forsythe, whose hair has not yet receded, dials up the smile factor as Wonder. His medley, featuring the adorable "Sunshine," rocked the house.
          Speaking of rock, Watkins' rendition of Turner's "Proud Mary" nearly tipped the boat, though she remained securely perched on her spike heels.
          Parody is inevitable with Elvis, and Cherry embraced the swivel-hipping obvious -- husky throated tackiness in Vegas-sequin excess (highlighted by a crackling "Superstition" -- but no panties were tossed onstage opening night).
          Tribute bands and impersonators are not my thing. But if they appeal to you, this show is first-rate.

Read the original article (subscription required) at: http://long-island.newsday.com/things-to-do/music/legends-in-concert-elvis-is-back-1.5652155