Legends in Concert 2023 – Theatre Review

Legends become legends for a reason. With music, there are many factors, whether it be for an impressive voice, charm, style, personality, stage presence, incredible songwriting skills, or all the above. And with many of these legends no longer with us, or no longer touring, Legends in Concert continues their legacy.

Legends in Concert kickstarted its award-winning journey back in May 1983 at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas, USA. Today, the company has long-running productions all over the world and Melbourne is lucky to have one of them.

Accompanied with a talented 7-piece band (drums, guitar, bass, keyboard, saxophone, and two back-up singers), the cast of Legends in Concert consists of Stephen Sorrentino as Elton John, Nellie Norris as Cyndi Lauper, Lisa McClowry as Cher, Tino Ilbach as Stevie Wonder, Lori Mitchell as Tina Turner, Jason Jarrett as Michael Jackson, and Bill Cherry as Elvis Presley.

Being an impersonator is no ordinary feat as taking on the embodiment of another person is tough work and a unique craft. It’s not just the singing that they must master, but the style of singing, their speech, their mannerisms, right down to even their body language. From individual performances alone, it is evident that this team are the best in the business.

A technical marvel, Legends in Concert have been superbly smart about how they exhibition their artists. While the impersonator is singing on stage, the screens display both the artist performing, as well as footage of the real artist singing the same song and perfectly in time with the on-stage performer. It’s very clever, giving you the illusion that you’re seeing the real thing.

Not to be outdone, the make-up and costuming are fantastic! I adored Cher’s iconic ‘Turn Back Time’ outfit that McClowry looked so natural in, Elton’s gorgeous and glittery emerald jacket was an envious fashion wardrobe piece, and Elvis’ well researched and designed jumpsuit, complete with a studded eagle, reminded me of Elvis’ real jumpsuits that I had the honour of seeing last year at Bendigo Art Gallery’s Elvis: Direct from Graceland exhibition. They were all as accurate as they could be.

Performance wise, every cast member was good and had great interaction with the audience. Cyndi Lauper got hands swaying to ’True Colors’, Mitchell’s Tina amped up the energy with songs ‘Nutbush City Limits’ and ‘Proud Mary’, getting audience members up on their feet and dancing, Ilbach’s Stevie also felt perfect, vocally impressive, and effortless, displaying just how many fantastic tunes Stevie Wonder had under his belt including ’Superstition’, ’I Just Called (To Say I Love You)’, and ’Master Blaster’.

While I did like Jarrett as Michael Jackson, I was a little puzzled why two Jackson 5 numbers were performed in adult MJ style when Jackson has such a vast discography, but I am unsure of the reasoning behind this decision and believe that perhaps this may have been down to copyright issues. I preferred Jarrett when he was performing Michael Jackson songs including ’Thriller’ and ’Billie Jean’, and was delighted to witness the iconic dance moves that Jackson was known for.

Sorrentino’s Elton performed hits ‘The Bitch Is Back’, ‘Saturday’ with lyrics cheekily changed to reflect the day the show was happening, split the crowd up to happily singalong to ‘Crocodile Rock’, and encouraged audience members put on their phone lights when singing ’Candle in the Wind’. Although he was fun, I was a little shocked to hear the Princess Diana version lyrics in some lines of Sorrentino’s performance, only because the real Sir Elton vowed that he would never perform that version live again after her funeral out of respect for his friend. However, I understand this was a choice.

McClowry’s Cher stunned and slayed with her performances of ’Turn Back Time’ and the 90s gay anthem ’Believe’. She even took shy audience member Gary up on stage to be her Sonny for the night and sing ‘I Got You Babe’. Their chemistry was adorable, and Cher was so wholesome and encouraging but still upfront as and as frank as you’d expect Cher to be. Cherry’s Elvis held the hands of excited ladies in the front row during his songs and even gave them kisses, much like the real Elvis did at his concerts once upon a time.

If I had to choose, my favourites of the night would be Lisa McClowry and Bill Cherry. If I didn’t know any better and if I had closed my eyes, only listening to them talk and sing, they are Cher and Elvis. Cher is one of the legends that I have actually seen live in concert (I have seen Michael Jackson and Elton John live too) and McClowry has gotten her portrayal of Cher right down to a tee. I was so impressed by her performance.

Cherry was also outstanding with his performance, right down to the martial art style poses and the way he even walked, performing hits including ’See See Rider’, ’Burning Love’, ’Suspicious Minds’ and ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’. I felt like I had gone back in time to see Elvis in his prime. Many of us weren’t alive when the real artists were performing and touring, so it it’s shows like Legends in Concert that I am grateful for, as this fantastic production is giving fans the opportunity to have such a special experience that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Overall, Legends in Concert is a fun night out for all. If you want to hear your favourite songs, they’re all here and are performed so well, you’ll forget that it’s all live. While not gospel, they’re the next best thing, are great at their trade, but are only here for a limited time! So, book a date night out, wrangle in your family, or your group of friends to attend and go see this fun and entertaining production that you’ll leave with the biggest smile on your faces. Act fast as these legends won’t be here forever!

Legends in Concert is now playing in Melbourne until the 29th of January at The Palms, Crown.
For more information and ticketing, visit:
https://www.crownmelbourne.com.au/entertainment/live-theatre/legends-in-concert
https://legendsinconcert.com

The 7:30pm performance on Sunday the 15th of January was attended for the purpose of this review.

Photography supplied.

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