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‘Legends’ convincingly captures artists
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
All forms of theater require us to make an initial suspension of disbelief. We know that those aren’t really witches and flying monkeys on the stage in “Wicked,” and that we’re not watching people actually kill each other in “West Side Story” or “The Pillowman,” but with the suspension of that knowledge, and convincing performances by talented actors, the characters on stage and the things we see them experience become “real” and we respond accordingly.
LEGENDS IN CONCERT WAIKIKI
Where: Royal Hawaiian Theatre, Royal Hawaiian Center
When: 8:15 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays
Cost: $50 (cocktails only), $90 (luau), $140 (VIP, includes premium dinner) and $180 (“Green Room” package includes premium dinner, pre-show backstage tour and reception)
Info: 629-7469 or www.LegendsWaikiki.com
Note: “Legends” is dark this weekend. It reopens on Christmas Day.
That same suspension of reality fuels the new 2013 production of “Legends in Concert Waikiki.” Suspend your knowledge that Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson have “left the building” forever and that Steven Tyler and Madonna aren’t playing Waikiki this week, and the show’s talented star impressionists — “tribute artist” is the preferred term — re-create those iconic characters with convincing multifaceted performances.
As Steven Tyler, Chris VanDahl brings the character of the iconic Aerosmith vocalist to the Waikiki “Legends” show for the first time. VanDahl has the lips, the voice, the moves and the requisite attitude. I would like to have heard a little more of “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” but VanDahl’s animated renditions of “I Wouldn’t Want to Miss a Thing,” “Walk This Way,” “Sweet Emotion” and “Dream On” capture the essence of the character and earn applause from the crowd.
As Madonna, Kimberly Goltry is another instant audience favorite, as she proved on opening night. The character was not included in the last incarnation of “Legends.” Goltry brings Madonna back to Waikiki in effervescent high-octane style.
The third new star is Victor Trevino Jr., who’s making his Waikiki debut portraying the “young Elvis” of the ’50s and early ’60s. All “Legends” stars sing in their own natural voices, but Trevino’s ability to sound like Elvis is particularly noteworthy.
Hawaii-born Johnny Fortuno opened the Waikiki show a year ago as “young Elvis” and now proves equally convincing in the headliner role of “older Elvis.” He closes his set with a rendition of “My Way” that for power and emotional intensity would do credit to any singer — “tribute artist” or otherwise.
Returning as Michael Jackson, Damien Brantley continues to re-create Jackson’s timeless magic with his own eye-catching dancing in “Smooth Criminal,” “Thriller” and “Billie Jean.”
Brantley has the voice down, too. The longer he’s on, the stronger the illusion becomes.
Audience involvement continues to be part of the “Legends” experience. Trevino leaves the stage to give orchid lei to several women in the VIP area while he sings “Blue Hawaii.” VanDahl goes out to shake hands with some of the folks down front as well.
Fortuno literally takes “meet the audience” to another level when he goes up into the cocktail seating upstairs to shake hands with men and kiss women there. Reaching out to folks who didn’t buy the big-bucks dinner packages is a nice touch!
And, just for the record, this isn’t a karaoke-style show. The stars are supported musically by five black-clad musicians — drums, bass, guitar, keyboards and percussionist Lopaka Colon — and two eye-catching female singer/dancers. Additional dancers of both sexes enhance the visual experience while sometimes doubling as stagehands in moving various props.
Bottom line? This is musical theater and can be appreciated on its merits, just as we appreciate “Wicked” or “Miss Saigon.” And for those who accept the premise, the new “Legends” lineup and performances provide an evening of musical entertainment on a big scale.