Impersonation Nation

The Blues Brothers, Marilyn, The Killer, Ol' Blue Eyes, Der Bingle and The King himself! The "Legendary Superstars" revue takes a Las Vegas formula to Apache Junction and audiences are, well, doubled over.

"Since I always do the autograph session right after the finale dressed as Patsy, a lot of people don't realize until I sign that I was Marilyn, too," explains Marsha Finn, a former member of a Disney touring revue. "They say, 'When's Marilyn coming out?' and I say, 'She's out right now--sorta.' It just blows my mind that they don't realize they were watching the same person. But I guess that means that I'm doing my job."

Finn concedes that half of her job is made considerably easier because relatively few people have a clear picture of what Patsy Cline looked like.

"That's great, isn't it?" says Finn, who portrays the late singer dressed in generic Cline--a curly dark wig and a cowgirl outfit. "There isn't a lot of footage on Patsy. So instead I looked at the movie."

The movie?
"Sweet Dreams," she answers. "Jessica Lange's portrayal is right on the money."

While seemingly jarring, that explanation--impersonation once-removed--makes perfect sense on some very obtuse level: Why bother providing a slavishly faithful re-creation when most people wouldn't recognize it if they saw it?

Even more intriguing is Finn's turn as Marilyn Monroe--a redhead, she winds up looking like Jane Russell masquerading as Monroe in the final reel of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Finn's Monroe--which is roughly the same routine used by every Marilyn in the business--is a multitiered charade worthy of an anthropological thesis.

Although the late bombshell sang in a number of her films, in life she was never regarded as a musical performer. Nor did she ever make many public appearances--and certainly none as a nightclub headliner.

So what are we to make of the ethereal ditz wandering through the audience, kissing bald men on the head between choruses of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy"? What exactly is being impersonated? If it's a scene from one of her movies, then we're probably seeing Finn as Monroe as Lorelei Lee. But if that's the case, then why is Marilyn tossing off coy allusions to her affairs with JFK and RFK? Upon discovering that one audience member hails from D.C., Finn coos, "Ooooo, Marilyn likes Washington!"

Will the real Marilyn please stand up?
"Which Marilyn am I?" Finn says with a sigh. "That's a hard one. People see Marilyn as so many different people--some see her as a dizzy blonde, others see her as Norma Jean. I try to bring out a little bit of everything, especially the comedy because she was such a funny lady."

And apparently so was Finn's other alter ego. As Patsy Cline, she receives one of the biggest laughs in the show when she tells a joke about breast implants--a subject unheard of at the time of the singer's death in 1963.

Asked about the anachronism, Finn laughs. "I put that in because it's cute, the kind of joke I think Patsy would have told, bless her heart."

Marilyn Monroe couldn't have said it better herself.

A nine-year veteran of the faux 'n' famous biz, "Legendary Superstars" cast member Kevin Baker recently began wearing two hats in the show. Or more precisely, one fedora and a $400 hairpiece--costuming that help transform him into Elwood Blues and a Jazz Singer-era Neil Diamond, respectively.

The decision to add Diamond to his repertoire wasn't so much a matter of doubling his employment opportunities as an attempt to segue into old age through a less hazardous characterization.

"I've been through three partners in the last three years," explains Baker, who recently missed several performances because of a back injury aggravated by the physically challenging demands of the Blues Brothers routine. "My second partner was 50 when he had his first serious accident onstage; he jumped down and broke an elbow. About three months later, he jumped up, caught his nose on a wire, lost his balance and fell off the stage." Concludes Baker, "There comes a time when you're 40 years old, wearing three-inch shoes, rolling around on the stage that you realize this isn't going to take you through 50."

Still, the Neil Diamond zircon doesn't pretend that his strange way of making a living is anything more than it is.

Unlike those he impersonates, Baker knows he'll probably never land a platinum record, the home in Beverly Hills and millions of screaming fans.

On the other hand, he need never worry about the next hit record, losing the house or fending off stalkers, which is just fine with him.

"You've got to remember that I'm coming to this from lounge work in Vegas," he says. "That's a job where you're rewarded for being mediocre; they don't want you to be too good or people won't keep gambling. So to have people come, sit down and watch me in a show like this--even if I'm doing the Blues Brothers or I've got the Neil Diamond unit on my head--that's great.

"I'm just an entertainer," says Baker. "Bottom line? What I'm doing out here is a kick of a way to make child support.

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