When an entertainer is billed as “the legendary man of a 1,000 voices and the number-one singing impressionist in the world” – those glowing accolades piqued my interest.
So on the first of October I scooted over to Kelowna Community Theatre to see what the fuss was all about. It was Sunday night and the theatre about half full. There wasn’t a whole lot of buzz in the building. Let’s just say I was cautiously optimistic. Would this international performer deliver the goods, or was it all blustery hyperbole created by some PR factory?
Turns out it was an old-school variety show with slapstick sprinkled in. The entertainer was André–Philippe Gagnon, a master impersonator and vocal illusionist from Quebec City. This vocal chameleon had been around the block, having once appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, performed all across Canada, and worked rooms in Las Vegas and Paris.
When I first got a copy of the playlist from the production crew, I counted 44 songs. No way would Gagnon be able to rip through that many numbers before midnight?! Something had to give, and it did. Let’s just say when you’re doing 44 vocal impressions from multiple eras, you don’t sing the entire song. Just short, memorable snippets that were instantly recognizable.
Gagnon took the stage in a shiny gray suit, no tie, and two bottles of water. No backup singers, he was a one-man schtick with no place to hide or rest. The first song was Sam Smith’s Stay with Me. The music was provided electronically and Gagnon started singing a la Smith. Next up were impressions of Bill Hailey, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, The Platters, Elvis, Chubby Checker, and Ray Charles.
The music timeline started in the 50’s and ended almost at present day. The entire gig was Gagnon, who can do the show in English or French, mimicking the artist’s voice and distinguishable mannerisms. Between songs he mixed in one-liners about certain artists. The fast-talking Frenchman’s impressions of Sammy, Dean, and The Beatles were spot on.
Other audience favorites were his Mick Jagger (rooster-like strutting) version of Satisfaction, Louis Armstrong (What a Wonderful World), James Taylor (You’ve Got a Friend), love ambassador Barry White (Can’t Get Enough), and Gnarls Barkley (Crazy). The only two females covered were Tracy Chapman (Fast Car) and Natalie Cole (Unforgettable).
My favorites were Roy Orbison (Pretty Woman), R.E.M. (Losing my Religion), and The Black Eyed Peas (I Gotta Feeling).
Big Finish – one indelible impression, the fast-action show lasted 80 minutes. That included a song-and-dance routine Gagnon did with select audience members. His encore was taking a pretend iPod and jamming through the songs on it. Things ended so quickly folks were heading to the parking lot at two minutes before nine.