Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009 | 6:17 p.m.
Elvis drove the golf cart, and Madonna sat shotgun. In the back seat, two showgirls smiled widely, decked out in black feathers and lots of sparkles. Behind them, Dolly Parton teetered under the weight of her breasts. Britney strode in spandex and pre-nervous breakdown blonde locks. Garth Brooks strummed his guitar. The odd Vegas family that makes up Legends in Concert poured out of the Imperial Palace and onto the Strip sidewalk, waving like dignitaries as they headed north to their new home at Harrah’s.
“Don’t forget where you came from,” shouted an Imperial Palace dealer to Diana Ross, clad in an iridescent silver sheath.
After 26 years in the Imperial Palace showroom, live tribute act Legends in Concert has moved house, heading a minute or so down the Strip to sister property Harrah’s.
Legends hits the road
“They’ve had 13,000 shows, and seven million people over that period of time have seen the show,” said Harrah’s President Don Marrandino. “The Imperial Palace is now part of Harrah’s, and we had an opening in our theater. We thought, ‘Wow. We could get a brand new sound system and set and kind of freshen the show up.’”
The Strip-side parade kicked off the show’s first night in its new digs, and served as a coming-out party for Legends at Harrah’s. Crowds lined the sidewalk, waving to and snapping pictures of Whitney Houston, Elton John and Bette Midler, with all the feverish enthusiasm of actual groupies.
“We’re just excited about the move,” said Elvis impersonator and golf cart driver Matt Lewis, dressed in black leather pants and a matching leather jacket, which revealed a patch of chest and possibly provided some ventilation on the warm afternoon. “Harrah’s has allowed us to really give the show an upgrade, to give it a makeover. We get a brand-new stage. We’ve incorporated more multimedia.”
But while the show has moved less than a block away, leaving the Imperial Palace was hard for some of the performers.
“It was really kind of nostalgic, the ride over,” said Lewis. “We left the Imperial Palace and waved goodbye to all of our friends and family. Madonna said she was about ready to cry. … We’ve called (the Imperial Palace) home for so long.”
“It was kind of emotional, the whole change from one place to another,” acknowledged Coty Alexander, who plays Madonna for Legends. “It was sad; I’ve been there for two years, and I’ve got a lot of friends over there.”
Clearly, the dealer has nothing to worry about – the cast of the tribute show isn’t about to forget their Palace roots. But with Legends’ first Harrah’s show coming just hours after the parade’s 4 p.m. arrival at the casino, the performers were also looking to the show’s future and counting on the enduring appeal that has carried it through two and a half decades.
“Audiences like to be fooled. They like to play the game,” said Jay Leno impersonator Marcel Forestieri, who acts as the host of Legends in Concert. “They like to get caught up and say, ‘Oh! We just saw Elvis or we just saw Madonna.’”
“People come to the show and they want to see Elvis,” Lewis said. “Elvis doesn’t go away. That’s good for me.”
Post-parade Lewis had another blessing to count.
“I didn’t kill anybody. That would’ve been a really bad headline: ‘Elvis takes out five people in the parade.’”