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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Basic Biittner : Being Someone Else

Friday, May 6, 2011

My wife and I recently attended two very entertaining performances with a common thread : both shows featured performers portraying other real-life entertainers.

The first show, "The Rat Pack Is Back," is basically a re-creation of a 1960's night club performance by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis jr. and comedian Joey Bishop, complete with drinking, smoking, off-color jokes and of course, singing, backed by a dynamite 10-piece band. Aside from a few jokes which seemed a little out-of-place because they made current-day references (Viagra, Charlie Sheen, etc.), I thought the evening was quite enjoyable. The Sinatra impersonator didn't look exactly like Old Blue Eyes, but he had the voice and timing down; the Sammy character was talented, though his dancing was a little disappointing; Joey Bishop didn't have the exact look either, but his delivery of a series of one-liners was "right on," as they used to say. My favorite, though, was probably the Dean Martin impersonator, who had the voice, the look and the style of Dino down to a "T." Also, in this day of no smoking in public places, he had a lit cigarette in his hand for the entire two hour show and I do believe it was actually a real cigarette, as we had a seventh row seat and my eyes were burning.

Two nights later, we got to see "Jersey Boys," the Tony Award-winning story of one of my favorite singing groups of the 1960's, the Four Seasons. We thoroughly enjoyed the great music, of course, with such Four Seasons' nuggets as "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Dawn," along with Frankie Valli solo hits "My Eyes Adored You" and "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" among the musical highlights. What was even more interesting was the storyline of the play, which tells the story of the group's members, from their beginning to today. Each of the four original members narrates a "season" (act) of the play - Fall, Spring, Summer and Winter - and besides the great music the story includes the elements of love, jealousy, crime and mob involvement and actor Joe Pesci - "something for everyone."

If you loved the Four Seasons and ever get a chance to see "Jersey Boys," I highly recommend it.

I was a little leery of the whole idea of entertainers making a living impersonating other, more famous entertainers at first, probably because some Elvis impersonators I saw on television were really bad. On the other hand, some Elvis impersonators over the years have really developed into good acts, and last year we saw a production of "Rain," the Beatles tribute, that was also excellent.

So I guess the bottom line is this - if an entertainer chooses to spend his or her life paying homage to a celebrity they admire, they need to be really sure that they themselves are indeed gifted and as believable as can be. If not, the impersonator not only does his/her career no good, it can also unintentionally tarnish our memories of the icons they are trying to honor. Imitation is only "the sincerest form of flattery" if it is a good imitation.

Caveat emptor - "let the buyer be ware."

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner