An Atlantic City tradition continues with this year’s edition of ‘Legends in Concert’ at Harrah’s Resort
Decades before the “tribute act” became a show biz staple, a man named John Stuart had an idea. He assembled a group of performers who not only looked like musical superstars but sounded like them as well. Today, that six-week experiment at the long-gone Imperial Palace on the Las Vegas Strip in 1983 continues to be a standard-bearer of musical mimicry. That, at least, is the takeaway from this year’s iteration of Legends in Concert, which is currently in residence at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City.
The roster of lookalike soundalikes is typically strong, offering a pleasingly diverse palette of songs that cover seven decades of pop history.
All six performers do wonderful jobs celebrating their subjects; there are no weak links on the Concert Venue stage. But if there is a first among equals, it’s Denita Asberry as Aretha Franklin. Hers is the most accurate impersonation, sonically and visually. Asberry’s spot-on turn includes such Franklin signatures as “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” “Chain of Fools” and “Think,” and she lights things up throughout her set.
Rounding out the program are Raniere Martin — whose turn as disco diva Donna Summer gets things off to a rousing start, Stephen McPhail as (physically, anyway) the latter-years David Bowie and show-closer Kevin Mills as Elvis Presley (it’s a Legends tradition that Elvis go on last).
McPhail pleasantly surprises by capping his solid, hit-laden turn with a rip-snorting version of “Suffragette City” from Bowie’s seminal The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars LP (how cool would a full-costume early-‘70s set be?).
And Mills rightfully claims his place as a top-shelf Elviser. Technically, he is superb, although he never quite reaches the lower ends of his subject’s immortal baritone. But what makes his performance stand out is a sense of fun and informality that is a welcome departure from so many of his brethren who tend to be a little too reverent in their portrayals of The King.
Finally, it must be noted that that the proceedings are significantly enhanced by the four-piece band quarterbacked by AyCee-based guitar whiz, Dan Jost.
In all, another entertaining effort from the Legends in Concert franchise.